If you’ve met Reverend Michelle Boonzaaier, you’ll agree that one of the first things you noticed about her is her affectionate smile and affirming gaze. Spending a little more time in her company would have revealed to you that she is exactly as she presents on the outside: sincere, generous, sharp, nurturing, and incredibly intuitive. 

Having had the immense privilege of working alongside and journeying with Michelle during her time at Inclusive and Affirming Ministries, these are just some of the things we have grown to cherish and will remember with fondness as her time with the organisation comes to an end. What initially began as a consulting arrangement with just a few hours a month has blossomed into a camaraderie that has flourished over the past 13 years.

As she vacates her role as Programmes Manager, we are thankful for the strategic oversight Michelle has managed during various transitions in IAM’s history; the leadership and fellowship she has offered to the team; and the reverence with which she has held the many communities we have worked with. She has truly demonstrated how professionalism can coexist with gentleness. 

Here are some tributes from Michelle’s colleagues:

I am immensely blessed to have been a witness to Michelle’s growth and metamorphosis over the years: from childhood friend to colleague within the Queer human rights movement. Thank you, Michelle, for being open to change and for contributing to social justice and inclusion. Your giftedness will be missed. I wish you well on the next season of your journey. – Marlow 

Michelle’s colleagueship and courage to align herself to IAM’s mission and vision has had a profound impact on the IAM team and the people that crossed our paths.  Her input into our programmatic work and processes is highly appreciated. I wish her the very best for this new chapter of her journey. – Ecclesia 

I appreciate that I could be a witness to the way Michelle lives her calling as a theologian by drawing from her own embodiment. The wisdom and grace that she has shared so bravely and vulnerably with IAM will offer us guidance into the future. Michelle has opened countless hearts, minds, and doors. I am privileged to continue to walk on the path that Michelle has paved with authenticity and wholehearted dedication during her time with IAM. – Louis 

Oh, dearest Chelly!! Thank you for the countless moments of love, vulnerability and opening yourself up with grace and compassion. Endless conversations, laughter and other shenanigans come to mind when I reflect on our journey these last few years. Your creative contributions of language, critical thinking in shaping processes and gift of compassion will truly be missed. Thank you for embodying your truth and constantly taking back your power unapologetically. I know this is not goodbye, but rather closing off this chapter as colleagues. In the wise words of Winnie, the Pooh “If there ever comes a day where we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever”. I love you to infinity and beyond. – Thuli 

Michelle, I will remember you as always being a kind, caring and gentle member of the IAM team.  Everyone’s wellbeing was important to you, and I thank you for that. I admired you for the way you could express yourself and explain the most difficult issues so that they would make sense.  Your input will be missed. I wish you all the best for the future. – Alida 

Michelle, I met you long before even dreaming of being your colleague, and realised how sympathetic and caring person you are, who always stands for what she believes in.  It was a privilege to experience your passion over the past two years.  Thank you for sharing yourself with us.  Everything of the very best for the years to come. – Irma

May all that is beautiful come and find you on your new journey. I’m going to miss your hilarious sarcasm so much. Go well, I’ll never forget you. – Abby

We wish Michelle well in her future endeavours, and leave her with this blessing penned by Jan Richardson, which we know she’s already familiar with;

Blessed are you in whom the light lives, in whom the brightness blazes— your heart a chapel, an altar where in the deepest night can be seen the fire that shines forth in you in unaccountable faith, in stubborn hope, in love that illumines every broken thing it finds.

Michelle, it’s “see you later”, and not goodbye.

All our love, the IAM staff and board.