DR. CLAUDIA MAY
Claudia May, Ph.D., is an educator, author, poet, and spiritual director. She is a specialist in African American and Caribbean literature and theater, and Reconciliation Studies. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. For more than a decade, she has ministered to leaders of color serving on the front line of ministry. Dr. May has also partnered with congregations and denominations, examining how communities can apply biblical principles to building empowering relationships across cultures. She also leads courses and facilitates workshops on how self-care/God-care strategies can transform one’s vision for ministry. Dr. May is currently the Program Director and Professor of Reconciliation Studies, and the Executive Director of the Center for Community Engaged Learning at Bethel University, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Dr. May has taught in higher education for more than seventeen years in the US and the UK. She has lectured on sports and spirituality, African American literature and Christian expression, religious sentiments in the blues, Christian discipleship formation, creative and non-fiction writing as a gateway to Christian spiritual practices, and writing as an avenue for personal healing. She also lectures on how individuals can forge an intimate relationship with God through prayer and reflective writing. She has presented papers in UK seminaries such as the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham; St. John’s College, York; and the University of Birmingham on the intersection between popular culture and religious expression.
Dr. Claudia May is a sought after specialist in Reconciliation Studies and has more than two decades of experience working alongside, teaching, and learning from global practitioners of reconciliation. Through her writing and teaching, Dr. May examines how Jesus and those he encountered live out reconciliation. She pays particular attention to the agency of those dismissed as irrelevant. She probes how Jesus co-builds relationships with the disinherited while confronting injustice, challenging abusive systems, and engaging with conflicting histories, beliefs, and cultures. Dr. May’s work stresses that Jesus can present us with practical approaches to dismantling the inequities and divisions that undermine our relationship with God and others. Through her analysis of psychological studies, Dr. May also mines how the lives of Jesus and biblical characters interface with stories of trauma and our complex humanity. Since arriving at Bethel in 2015, Dr. May has created and added the following three new courses to the Reconciliation Studies degree program: “The Power of Story and Reconciliation”;“European Experiences,Whiteness and Reconciliation”; and “Hip-Hop, Spoken Word & Reconciliation.” She considers it a privilege to work alongside young adults in the ministry of reconciliation. She believes there can be no movement or fight against social justice if practitioners of reconciliation do not engage with young adults. She believes leaders who consider themselves agents of reconciliation must embrace young adults as fellow reconcilers who have much to teach us all.
Dr. May facilitates several conversations and forum gatherings a year under the banner of Reconciliation Studies. These allow members of the wider community, students majoring in a wide-range of disciplines, staff, and faculty to learn from the stories and practices of the marginalized among us. Recent forums include: “The Bombing of a Mosque: Islamophobia, the Power of Story, and the Love of Community”; “What’s In A Name?: Asian American Women’s Lives, Agency, Community, and Reconciliation”; “European American Experience, Whiteness, Privilege, and Reconciliation”; and “Racism, Trauma, and Reconciliation.”
God’s love drives reconciliation. The transformative principles and practices of this ministry change lives, systems, and relational dynamics with God and others. Dr. May explores how an observance of spiritual disciplines, worship practices, and immersion in soul work can deepen our relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, as well as help heal the wounds of living in a divided world. She is a passionate follower of Jesus, a woman of prayer, and a lover of biblical stories and wisdom.
Dr. May’s research explores trauma care for those impacted by racial inequities and addresses how reconciliation can speak to the divisions and injustices separating us from God and one another. In 2017, through a competitive selection process, SCIO: Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford, and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), invited Dr. May to join twenty scholars from around the world to participate in the Oxford Interdisciplinary Seminars in Science and Religion: Bridging the Two Cultures of Science and the Humanities II, 2017–19. Dr. May has an interest in examining how literature, hip-hop, spoken word, and oral story telling can engage with the traumas suffered by those who confront racism daily. She believes that story telling and literature can provide creative outlets for truth telling and healing. Dr. May’s work as a practitioner of reconciliation also probes whether certain expressions of evangelicalism can traumatize followers.
Dr. May writes academic pieces, devotional reflections, commentaries, poetry, short stories, and children's literature. Her work has been published by Oxford University Press, Taylor & Francis, Walter de Gruyter, Lexington Books, and Routledge, among others. She has contributed articles and poetry to Patheos, Radix, The Mennonite, Red Letter Christians, and other publications. She is the author of Jesus is Enough: Love, Hope, and Comfort in the Storms of Life (Augsburg Fortress Press, http://ow.ly/TAKJz).
Her children’s picture book, a three-movement poem entitled When I Fly With Papa, explores how children and adults can co-create a liberating and emotionally transparent relationship with God. The central character in this book is a 7-year-old black girl called Winnie. When I Fly With Papa (Wise Ink Creative Publishing) was released in August 2018. It recently received an Illumination Award Enduring Light 2019 Gold Medal in the Children's Christian Literature category. "The Enduring Light medals reward exemplary Christian-themed books published since the year 2000."
For all that she has accomplished, Claudia identifies herself as God’s beloved daughter.