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LifeWay award for Sunday school goes to Houston church & pastor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A Southern Baptist pastor and his Texas church with 1,000-plus people involved in the FAITH Sunday School evangelism strategy were honored Nov. 29 for their contributions to Sunday School ministry by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Sal Sberna, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church of Houston, accepted the Washburn-Piland-Taylor Directors Award in the local church category on behalf of the church.

“When Sal saw the possibility of marrying Sunday school and evangelism, he took off with it,” said Bill Taylor, director of LifeWay’s Sunday school group. “He told me, ‘I’ll stand as a pastor who supports Sunday school anytime, anywhere you want me to.'”

Given annually in four categories — Southern Baptist Convention, state, association and local church work — the awards are named after the last three men who have provided leadership for Sunday school ministry across the Southern Baptist Convention — A.V. Washburn, Harry Piland and Taylor.

In the SBC category the award was given to ministers of education.

“This year, instead of presenting the award to an individual, we decided to award it to a position,” Taylor said. “These are the people who do the enlisting, training, motivating. They are the support to the pastor, friend to the deacons and helper to the teachers.”

Three retired ministers of education — C. Winfield “Windy” Rich, who has served a number of churches in Tennessee and Texas; Elmer Bailey of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.; and Bob Edd Shotwell of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas — representing all ministers of education, received the award.

Recipients in other categories were:

–Association: Terry Cothran, director of missions for Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association in Atlanta.

— State: Robert Grant of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Taylor called Grant “a great example of a state director. Sunday school doesn’t have a better friend than Bob Grant.”

Two LifeWay employees were recognized for outstanding performance in editorial and consultant categories.

Ellen Beene, editor of special education materials, received the Hight C. Moore Award for editorial excellence. A 15-year employee of LifeWay, Beene was described by Taylor as “consistent. You can always expect her work to be of the highest quality. Ellen represents the expertise and excellence of what it means to be an editor.”

The award is named after Moore, who served as supervisor of the editorial department at the Sunday School Board (now LifeWay) from 1907-43.

Linda Thompson, senior coordinator in marketing public relations, received the Elsie Rives Award for outstanding field service work during the year. Thompson has been with LifeWay 28 years. “She is a trainer’s trainer,” Taylor said. “Linda Thompson is the best friend our directors of missions have. She spent 175 days on the road last year helping people learn about Sunday School for a New Century.”

The award is named after the late Rives, consultant and manager of the children’s program section at the board from 1963-87.

The James L. Sullivan Management Award honoring exceptional managers was presented to Judy Latham, manager of the children’s VBS ventures section, and to Richard Barnes, director of the youth Sunday school ministry department. The award is named after James L. Sullivan, president of the Sunday School Board from 1953-75.

Latham has been at LifeWay 16 years, beginning her work as a contract writer.

Barnes is a 15-year employee of LifeWay. “Richard has provided outstanding leadership for Sunday School for a New Century,” Taylor said.

The awards were presented during the annual gathering of state Sunday school directors and associates in Nashville, Tenn.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SAL SBERNA and LIFEWAY AWARDS.

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  • Polly House