When Karen Green received the John W. Rustin Award for "prophetic preaching" recently at the School of Theology's honors day, it took her awhile to get used to the idea. But it's growing on her. A college administrator who was called to enroll in Candler's Master of Divinity Program, the 49-year-old Green said she didn't think of herself as a preacher but has changed her mind.
"I learned in my contemporary black preaching course that often when we speak we are preaching," said Green, who upon her graduation from Candler will become assistant dean of student affairs at her undergraduate alma mater, Agnes Scott College. "I've come to believe that I preach in many instances. Even when I'm sitting on the President's Committee on Diversity at Agnes Scott and speaking for those students at the margins, I'm doing prophetic preaching."
Green's journey to Candler came in the midst of a successful career in student affairs, which began in 1979 when she came to Atlanta to work in Spelman College's residence life program. In the fall of 1981 she entered Agnes Scott's Return to College Program for nontraditionally aged women. She also transferred her expertise to her new alma mater, working in residence life, orientation and housing. After receiving her bachelor's degree 1986, Green became the first director for student activities at Agnes Scott. In 1990 she returned to her native New York state to become the first director of multicultural affairs at Hamilton College, but by 1994 she felt called to enter the seminary.
"I didn't tell my family for awhile, but they knew anyway. It was news only to me!" said Green, whose sister Vicki Green is assistant dean of undergraduate admissions at Emory. Friends, family members and even students told her knowingly that ministry with college students "is who you are and what you've been doing; you've just claimed it now."
Green did more than find her calling at Candler; she made a difference. For the past two-and-a-half years she served as assistant director of Emory's PREP, a summer enrichment program in math and science for Atlanta high school juniors. She also helped open channels for dialogue about race. This semester Green organized an alternative spring break experience for several of her African American and European American classmates to begin talking about "what it means to be an African American in metro Atlanta." As a follow-up she has written a manual on the project "so that anyone can pick up the idea and build on it."
As for Green, she will assume her new role at Agnes Scott as assistant dean of students while many of her friends become parish preachers. And what will she say when they ask her to come preach? Just two words: "I'm ready."
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