Kathy Dawson, Columbia’s Associate Professor of Christian Education and Director of the MAPT Program, was honored on February 5 as the 2015 recipient of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) Educator of the year award.
Dawson used her acceptance speech as a time of encouragement while also unveiling a web-based, multi-platform Christian Education resource.
“Hope4ce.net is meant to be a place where innovative ideas and lesson plans can be shared for Christian education,” she said, adding that the idea was birth from discussions and questions presented her by students and other Christian educators.
Borrowing from the theme of the 2015 APCE meeting, Dawson reflected on present realities of Christian Education. She highlighted many of the shared anxieties surrounding the future of Christian Education in local churches and pointed out that all is not lost.
“Fear not! God is doing a new thing,” she emphasized.
She said she felt “Fear not” speaks so much to the “times in which we are living in the arena of Christian Education.”
As she spoke on the state of Christian Education not only with the Presbyterian Church, but the church universal, the rise of church Christian educators lacking seminary training and access, the tug-of-war between church leaders and Christian educators and the changing landscape in education, she seemingly attempted to pump hope and faith into the spirits of those in attendance.
“With change comes anxiety and the desire to find the next new thing and implement it,” she said. “Fear not! There are those that may be exploring what God may be saying today.”
She used her experiences with some of the Doctorate of Educational Ministry students from Columbia Theological Seminary in attendance as examples of God moving in the midst.
“They see what’s lacking in Christian Education and see their particular niche to fix things,” she said. “Many of them are producing new insights and spreading them through publications, blogs and social media. They are a resource to the church.”
She asked those in attendance to consider what God may be calling them to pursue and act upon the call. In addition, she highlighted the benefits of social media like Twitter and Facebook in Christian Education. She used the example of Steve and Sharol Hayner utilization of the Caring Bridge website during their transitional journey. Their transparency showed her the power of social media.
“There is room for quality interaction online,” she said. “The kind of human interaction that went on via that site was probably truer than what would have happened in face-to-face interactions.”
Dawson is the third Christian Educator with ties to Columbia Theological Seminary to receive the APCE Educator of the year honor. Rodger Nishioka, Benton Family associate professor of Christian Education, received the honor in 1997. The following year, Marvin Simmers, former interim director of Advanced Professional Studies at Columbia and adjunct professor, was honored.