Speaking and Retreats

Melanie has a beautiful, unique, prophetic and convicting voice — and it needs to be heard. It needs to be heard by people whom it will make uncomfortable, and it needs to be heard by people who have walked some of the same paths as her…especially the painful ones…so they can know they aren’t alone.

–Erin Washington, MLS, Co-Founder, Embodied Labs

A seasoned preacher and teacher, I am currently seeking a certificate for “Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats” from the Shalem Institute. While I love speaking about poetry, I also lead on other topics, trusting that poetry informs any of my retreats, contemplative prayer groups, sermons, and/or presentations.

To get a feel for my speaking style, please check out this Youtube playlist, which has several sermons that I’ve preached in the past few years. The sermons range from casual and conversational to more formal and academic, and I’m happy to cater my style to the needs and purposes of your group. For preparing a talk, I follow the model of my friend Cary Umhau, who says:

“I never use the same talk entirely again. Every audience is different, and I want to hear your goals for your group. And also, as a person who’s always in process, I’m not the same speaker (or woman) I was the last time I gave a talk…My heart’s just not in it the same way as when I pray for fresh inspiration. So you can always know your talk will be yours uniquely.”


I love speaking on, and have personal experience with, the following topics:

  • How to have difficult conversations in polarizing environments
  • Jesus as doctor and medicine
  • Living in intentional community
  • How to recognize God’s voice and movement in my life
  • Not so fast: confessions of a burnout junkie who is learning to wait
  • Women in the Bible: their stories, their voices
  • Mourning broken dreams and dying vision
  • The power, and terror, of fasting as spiritual practice
  • Prayer as a well-balanced diet
  • Navigating transitions
  • Sabbath and justice: a journey of remembrance
  • How to love and know God through prayer: a journey to surrender and release
  • Dangerous words: censorship and the Bible
  • Suffering, evil, and how do we respond?
  • When God is silent
  • Journeying through the Psalms
  • Holy expectations: what do God and others expect of me?
  • Our bodies and spirituality: turning foes into friends
  • Contemplative prayer practices that have stood the test of time
  • Patience, Persimmons, and Parsing Motives
  • Finding creativity through our everyday work materials
  • The Creative Journey: a personal labyrinth
  • Seeking and naming sources of creative inspiration
  • Our home a monastery: monastic practices we can weave into everyday life

Here is a Partial List of Previous Speaking Venues:

  • Sojourners, Washington, DC
  • Van Buren United Methodist Church, Washington, DC
  • Fairlington Presbyterian Church, Alexandria, VA
  • University Christian Church, Hyattsville, MD
  • Shanghai Community Fellowship, Shanghai, China
  • St. Brendan’s in the City, Washington, DC
  • Western Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC
  • Catholic Volunteer Network (online webinar)
  • Vita Poetica, Washington DC and online webinar
  • Grace United Methodist Church, Atlanta, GA
  • Hangzhou International Christian Fellowship, Hangzhou, China

Melanie’s sermon on ‘Patience, Persimmons, and Parsing Motives’ was one of the most helpful and influential I’ve heard in a long time—how moving and inspiring! I loved Melanie’s humanity, how she intelligently ties the theme of ripeness and her walking through Scripture in answer to the questions, including the application of contemplative silence as a way to strengthen the heart.

–Bruce P.


I have led many retreats for a variety of ages and backgrounds. Most of the topics above can be turned into a retreat format (day, overnight, or weekend). I also love to lead silent retreats.

Please contact me to discuss potential speaking and/or retreat opportunities, as well as rates. I’d love to hear from you.