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Bliss Dodd Recipient of the Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award

Roughly a decade ago, I slipped into a conference in an Austin, Texas hotel to take part in my first meeting as a member of the Grants Committee of the Texas Methodist Foundation (TMF).  Chairing the meeting was one of the saints of the Central Texas Conference, Hiriam Smith.  As we worked through the agenda, I gradually got to know better the woman sitting across from me.  My admiration steadily grew as I listened to her great advocacy and deep dedication to helping children in poverty. In the years that followed, I was further blessed to have her Chair the Episcopacy Committee of the Central Texas Conference (as well as provide leadership for the Conference delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conferences) that year when Jolynn and I moved to Fort Worth to become the bishop of this great episcopal area.  I have steadily discovered that she has a heart for Christ, the Church, the people in the church and especially those beyond the church in the wider world who are hurting.  Her gentleness of spirit masks an iron commitment to serve in love those who are bruised and battered by life, especially the children. dodd pic Thus it was an immense joy for me to read of the decision by the Perkins School of Theology Lay Advisory Board to select Bliss Dodd as the 2014 Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award recipient.  She is a true disciple of Christ who greatly merits this august award.  The press release notes that the “Seals Award is presented annually to laypersons in the United States who embody the Christian faith and commitment of service to Christ in the church, community, and world as exemplified by Judge Woodrow B. Seals, a distinguished layperson whose interest and energy were instrumental in establishing the Perkins Theological School for the Laity. Selection for the award is made by a committee of the Perkins Lay Advisory Board.” In one sense that says it all; in another sense it does not say near enough.  The award notification gives further evidence which I quote: “Bliss Dodd has been an active layperson for many years at First United Methodist Church, Fort Worth. In addition to a wide variety of leadership responsibilities in the local church, she has served at the district and conference levels in the Central Texas Annual Conference and as a representative to several South Central Jurisdictional Conferences as well as three successive General Conferences – quadrennial gatherings of representatives elected to the highest legislative body of The United Methodist Church from across the globe.” “Bliss exemplifies the ministry of the laity at every level in the church,” said Dr. Tim Bruster, senior pastor at First UMC, Fort Worth. “Bliss lives out her commitment to Christ and the church in so many ways: in her worship attendance, her full participation and leadership on boards and committees, her stewardship, her own spiritual disciplines and her excellent teaching. She has held many offices at the local church level and beyond; ways that are too numerous to list.” As I write these words I cannot help but reflect that it was only a couple of week ago that I attended the Alumni Award Dinner at Perkins School of Theology to watch our own (Central Texas Conference’s) Rev. Karen Greenwaldt receive the Perkins Alumni Award.  Now our own Bliss Dodd receives the Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award!  Wow!  To shamelessly borrow from the Olympics, this is like winning gold and silver.  (I have no idea who is the gold or who is the silver medalist; more likely Karen and Bliss are double golds!)  I can’t think of what would constitute winning the bronze as well to take the whole podium (ala the American slopestyle skiers).  What I can do for myself and on behalf of the Central Texas Conference is express our great gratitude to this true disciple of Christ – Bliss Dodd!  Well done, thou good and faithful servant!