Conference celebrates barrier breakers with Louise Branscomb Award

June 03, 2006

The Advocacy for Social Justice Team hosted a special breakfast on Saturday morning, June 3. During the meal the nominees and recipient for the Louise Branscomb Barrier Breaker Award, presented each year by the Committee Status and Role of Women (COSROW), were recognized. Those gathered also heard a challenging message from guest speaker Rev. James Evens, pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church.

In 1989 the United Methodist Women of the North Alabama Conference established the Branscomb Barrier Breaker Award as a way for the Conference to annually recognize a United Methodist "willing to risk and stand up for the rights of women and ethnic minority persons."

COSROW convenor Rev. Sally Allocca noted the large and strong slate of nominees from through out the Conference this year as she introduced the nominees. The nominees range from those with long tenures of working with numerous social justice issues, to pastors of multicultural congregations, those helping victims of Hurricane Katrina and those working for health care and accessible public transportation. These nominees were

  • Rev. Kevin Higgs
  • Rev. Helen Shelley Willoughby
  • Nancy Higgs
  • Carol Toney
  • Rev. James Savage
  • Stephanie Hendrix
  • Rev. Robert Mount
  • Jessie Tehranchi (Posthumous Honored Nominee)
Rev. Allocca noted that because the slate of nominees was so strong that the selection committee could not chose a winner. Instead they chose a recipient. This year's recipient is Rev. Helen Shelly Whilloughby. Rev. Whilloughby was recognized for her service as pastor of the Glen Addy mission congregation in Anniston. During her time there she has helped lead the congregation to begin ministries that help empower and address the discovered needs of the community. These include an education program to help people earn their GEDs and obtain job skills; and a life change program that encourage healthier eating and exercise habits. The Glen Addy congregations submitted her name as a nomination for this award.

Following the presentation of the Award, those gathered heard a message from the guest speaker Rev. Jim Evens. During his remarks he focused on Jesus' promise found in Matthew 16:19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." He then encouraged Christians to not only see Jesus as your Savior, but allow him to be your mentor and Lord. Then, with him as your example, actively bind the injustices such as racism, violence and hate and instead loose the God-like qualities of love, mercy, grace and community.

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