The Rev. Erinn Jeanne Caitlin Melby died on May 18, 2019, at the age of 70.
Rev. Melby was born on July 15, 1948 in Benson, Minnesota, to William Lincoln Melby and Betty Jane (McNellis) Melby. In 1975, she received a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and English from Macalester College, and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Southern Colorado. Rev. Melby spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force as a Computer Operations Supervisor for NORAD Headquarters in Colorado Springs, CO, before heeding her call toward ministry. In 1984, she graduated from Starr King School for the Ministry (SKSM), CA, with her Master of Divinity.
Rev. Melby was one of the first Unitarian Universalists to attend seminary as an openly trans person; she came out to SKSM during her first year while giving a presentation on “gays, lesbians, and transsexuals.” She had first come out as trans in 1967 and first changed her name in 1975, although she went on to maintain a relationship with her pre-transition self, Karl, for the rest of her life.
Like almost all aspiring trans UU ministers, Rev. Melby experienced barriers to living out her call to ministry. She went before the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) unsuccessfully in both 1984 and 1985. Almost a decade later, after a two-year chaplain residency and a day-and-a-half-long psychological evaluation, she was finally passed by the MFC. She was welcomed into preliminary fellowship in 1994 and ordained on June 4, 1995, by the UU Church of Davis, CA.
Following her ordination, Rev. Melby served as a Chaplain/Spiritual Counsellor at Yolo Hospice for sixteen years (1995–2011). In leading the annual memorial service, her warm, resonant voice welcomed everyone to touch the tenderness of grief, no matter what face of “The Holy” they had or hadn’t known. She simultaneously served the UU Church of Palo Alto, CA, as its first community minister (1999–2001) and directed a Pastoral Associates Program at the congregation. In 2011, Rev. Melby retired from active ministry.
Outside her ministry, Rev. Melby was an active participant in UUA district and regional activities. She was involved with the Pacific Central District UUA, particularly around LGBTQ issues. She also was an active member of TRUUsT (Transgender Religious professional UUs Together). One of the fifteen people who attended the first TRUUsT membership retreat in 2016 in Pacific Grove, CA, Rev. Melby was a minister to ministers, offering her chaplaincy and pastoral care to the TRUUsT community.
Throughout her life, Rev. Melby worked on issues of social justice, particularly related to HIV/AIDS. She served as a Consultant to the Sacramento AIDS Interfaith Network; assisted the Sacramento AIDS Housing Alliance; and provided pastoral care to the LGBTQ community via the Lambda Center and UC Davis Medical Center. In her spare time, she enjoyed writing short stories, reading mysteries, drawing, and painting, as well as attending concerts and plays.
Rev. Melby is survived by her children Hans Melby, Bjorn Melby, Anna (Melby) Strain; her aunt Joanne (McNellis) Kavanaugh; four grandchildren; hundreds of friends; and her extended family within TRUUsT.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to TRUUsT (Transgender Religious professional UUs Together) and/or the American Cancer Society.
A celebration of Rev. Melby’s life will take place at 2 pm on Saturday, July 27th, 2019, at the UU Church of Davis, 27074 Patwin Road, Davis, CA 95616.
Notes of condolences may be sent to Anna Strain at 8805 Acadia Road, St. Paul, MN 55125.