On October 11, the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago will present the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards to six of its outstanding graduates. Through their various ministries, the recipients of the 2017 awards exemplify public church by bringing faith into the public sphere. The presentations begin at 5 p.m. in the Augustana Chapel at LSTC, 1100 E. 55th St., Chicago.
2017 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients
The Rev. James Bickel will receive the Faithful Servant Award. He currently serves as executive director of Outreach for Hope, Inc., a fund development and grant-making ministry of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). It provides financial support for congregations and ministries in the synod that are working in communities challenged by the effects of poverty. He served for 27 years at Ascension Lutheran Church in Waukesha, Wis., as administrative pastor for communication, fund development, leadership development and building administration where he developed local and international mission partnerships and community ministries. During the early years of his ministry, he served as assistant director of Lutheran Housing Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio. Bickel has been part of the ecumenical, social justice, peace, and community organizing efforts of Cleveland Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries, Ecumenical Partners for Peace and Justice of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, Peace Curriculum Task Force for ELCA Wisconsin and Upper Michigan synods, and the Clergy Caucus for SOPHIA. He earned a master of divinity degree from Christ Seminary-Seminex in 1977.
The Rev. Yehiel Curry will receive the Emerging Voice Award, given to an alumnus/a ordained within the last 10 years. He completed the Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) Program at LSTC after serving as a lay leader at Shekinah Chapel in Riverdale, Ill., for 10 years. He was ordained in 2009. In 2012, Shekinah Chapel became an organized congregation in the ELCA and called Curry to serve as their pastor. He earned a master of divinity from LSTC in 2013. Curry serves as board chair and camp director for Rescue, Release and Restore, Inc. NFP (RRR), a mentoring organization with programs in six cities. It houses the Safe in My Brothers Arms (SIMBA) and Safe in My Sisters Arms (SIMSA) camps for African-American youth. It is also a partner in the multicultural leadership MYLA Camp. Curry is founder and advisor of Riverdale Organized for Change (ROC), in Chicago’s south suburbs. He also serves on the Policy and Organizing board for the Community Renewal Society in Chicago. He is a frequent contributor to the ELCA worship resource, Sundays and Seasons. He has received numerous awards and recently shared God’s word in Liberia and Rwanda before 35,000 at a youth gathering.
The Rev. James P. Lapp will receive the Excellence in Parish Ministry Award. Since 1996, Lapp has served as solo pastor of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Santa Cruz, Calif. He is the co-founder of the faith-based Communities Organized for relational Power in Action (COPA). The two-county, broad-based coalition of 25 institutions works on developing leadership for local justice issues, renewing congregations, affordable housing, access to health care, public safety, public education, and immigration. Partnering with a non-profit housing corporation, Lapp led his congregation to build 40 units of affordable senior housing on church land in a county that is annually among the top five unaffordable counties in the USA. St. Stephens’ received the 2016 Affordable Residential Award from the Silicon Valley Business Journal and a 2016 United Way Community Hero Award for Santa Cruz County. Lapp graduated from LSTC’s dual degree program with the University of Chicago in 1994 with a master of divinity and master of social work.
The Rev. Amy Reumann will receive the Witness to the World Award. She currently serves as director of advocacy for the ELCA in Washington, DC, where she leads the advocacy ministry of the denomination as its representative with Congress, the Administration, and ecumenical and interfaith partners and coalitions. She previously served as director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania, as assistant to the bishop/urban coalition director of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, and as pastor or interim pastor of congregations in Wisconsin and New Jersey. Reumann also has served on numerous boards including the Diakon Wilderness Center Advisory Team, PA Interfaith Power and Light, the Reconciling in Christ Committee and the Anti-Racism Strategy Team for the Greater Milwaukee Synod, and the National Diakonia Board. She earned a master of divinity degree with a focus in cross-cultural ministry in 1992. She also holds a master of sacred theology in spiritual direction from the General Theological Seminary in New York, has received training in religious environmental leadership as a GreenFaith Fellow, and in 2016 completed the Newseum Certificate Program in Religion and Public Life.
The Rev. Dr. Andrea Walker will receive the Called to Lead Award. Since November 2012 she has been the area director for Madagascar, West and Central Africa for the Global Mission unit of the ELCA. She played a central role in interpreting the story of the Ebola virus crisis to the church to provide resources to Lutheran churches in West Africa. Walker has served as pastor to two very different congregations with the same name: St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Summit, N.J., with 800 members in a suburban setting, and St. John’s in the Bronx, N.Y., an inner-city congregation with 100 members. During the 1990s, while a student at LSTC, Walker helped organize several ELCA Youth Gatherings and served as keynote speaker and workshop presenter at other ELCA events. Since then, she has continued to preach and teach at conferences and events across the church. Walker earned her master of divinity degree in 1999 and a doctor of ministry in preaching from LSTC in 2007.
Dr. George Zachariah will receive the Specialized Ministry Award. He is professor and chairperson of the Department of Theology and Ethics, United Theological College in Bangalore, India. Zachariah is a leading scholar in Christian ethics, globalization and the environmental crisis. He has published scores of articles on a range of topics, many on earth justice and eco-theology. He is the author of Gospel in a Groaning World: Climate Injustice and Public Witness (2012, NCCI/CSS) and Alternatives Unincorporated: Earth Ethics from the Grassroots (2011, Equinox Press). He is the editor of six books, including the forthcoming Towards Water Justice: A Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace: Theological Reflections (2017, WCC) and Religion and Health Justice: A Dialogical Approach to the Promotion of Well-Being, co-edited with Ville Päivänsalo, Ayesha Ahmad, and Mari Stenlund (2017, Springer). Zachariah regularly lectures and gives presentations at conferences, consultations and universities around the world.
He earned a master of theology degree in 2002 and completed his doctor of philosophy degree with distinction in systematic theology at ethics in 2006.
LSTC’s Distinguished Alumni/ae Awards
Each year LSTC’s Alumni Board requests and reviews nominations for the Distinguished Alumni/ae Awards. There are six regular categories for the awards: Emerging Voice, Witness to the World, Specialized Ministry, Called to Lead, Excellence in Parish Ministry, and Faithful Servant. The awards are presented during LSTC’s annual Leadership Conference. For more information about the Distinguished Alumni/ae Awards or to submit a nomination, visit www.lstc.edu/alumni-friends/awards or contact Pastor Jennifer J. Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Jennifer Thomas
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The Lutheran School of Theology (LSTC) is dedicated to bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Based in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, it is the leading urban Lutheran seminary training students for purposeful vocations in the global community. Aligned with its Lutheran heritage and built on a foundation of intellectual rigor, LSTC’s innovative, nationally recognized curriculum gives students skills for visionary Christian leadership in the public sphere.