Twelve students representing four colleges and universities related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have received the 2012 Samuel Robinson Award. The award recipients are as follows:
- Catherine Cook, Whitworth University
- Jenna Hansen, Whitworth University
- Taehun Lee, Whitworth University
- Chelsea Loub, Westminster College
- Barry Ramsay, Whitworth University
- Margaret Smith, Hastings College
- Barrett Anderson, Whitworth University
- Christina Melahn, Whitworth University
- Danielle Estelle, Whitworth University
- Abigail Miller, Whitworth University
- Laura Garrett, Centre College
- Andrew Lewis, Whitworth University
The Samuel Robinson Award, which is open to PC(USA) students completing their junior or senior year of college at a Presbyterian-related college or university, was created from a gift made in 1956 naming the General Assembly, Princeton Theological Seminary, McCormick Theological Seminary, and San Francisco Theological Seminary to promote the memorization of the Westminster Shorter Catechism contained in the Book of Confessions.
The fund is administered by each institution in a variety of ways. The General Assembly’s portion of the fund—overseen by the office of Financial Aid for Studies of the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC)—is used to provide aid for Presbyterian students attending Presbyterian-related colleges and universities. In addition to memorizing and reciting the catechism—after which each student is presented with a study Bible provided by the Betty W. Chrisman Fund—each applicant is required to write a 2,000 word original essay on an assigned topic. For the 2012 award, applicants were asked to select a question-answer pair in the Westminster Catechism that speaks most directly to the PC(USA) today and explain why.
Each essay is evaluated by a team of experienced readers, who are asked to consider how the student has incorporated the catechism and Scripture in the discussion of the essay topic.
Selection for the award—which ranges from $2,500–$5,000—is competitive. Students have used Samuel Robinson Award proceeds for mission trips, transition to seminary or other graduate programs, and to reduce educational debt. The program will support up to 12 students per year.
The top award winners for 2012 are Andrew Lewis and Laura Garrett. Their essays were recognized by Samuel Robinson readers as “the best of 2012” and praised as “timely reflections on divisions in the church,” in which they applied the catechism in a loving, thoughtful, well-reasoned, and theologically sound manner.
Lewis, a 2012 graduate of Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., wrote his essay on question-answer pair 42, “What is the sum of the Ten Commandments?”
“The church's well-being depends upon making a radical return to the root of what Christ calls us to do . . . ’to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves,’” he wrote. “God's command for humanity is a message of solidarity with God and others through extreme love. Though Jesus' sum of the Ten Commandments has always been pertinent in guiding the church, its message is especially relevant in repairing the schisms within the body of the contemporary church and inspiring new growth, reversing membership decline.”
In a letter recently sent to the GAMC to express his gratitude for the award, Lewis wrote, “My dreams are big and my plans are open to where I sense God’s calling.”
After working this summer at Tall Timber Ranch, a Presbyterian camp in Leavenworth, Wash., Lewis hopes to start a ministry house at Shadle Park Presbyterian Church in Spokane. He plans to find a job “to supplement this ministry and hone new skills.”
Lewis’s older brother, Daniel, a 2010 graduate of Whitworth, was also a recipient of the Samuel Robinson Award and, like his younger brother, was one of the two top award winners for 2010.
Garrett, a rising senior at Centre College in Danville, Ky., focused her essay on question-answer pair 90, “Q. How is the Word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation? A. That the Word may become effectual to salvation we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer; receive it with faith and love; lay it up in our hearts; and practice it in our lives.”
“If the PC(USA) held the conviction that we should all read the Scripture together as brothers and sisters, with the goal of not only understanding the words of the Bible but also understanding how we each interpret the Bible,” Garrett wrote, “then we might be joined together in faith and love, rather than broken apart by our unwillingness to listen to each other.”
After graduating from Centre, Garrett plans to enter seminary. She hopes to pursue a call to prison ministry.
The Rev. John Roper, pastor of Harvey Browne Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky., where Garrett worships with her family, was not surprised by Garrett's selection for the award.
"Laura is smart, mature, and so committed to her faith,” Roper said. “She has had a very big presence in the life of Harvey Browne. It has been a joy to minister to her and to witness her ministry to us."
Chaplains at each Presbyterian-related college and university also provide invaluable assistance both to the PC(USA) and the student by consulting on essay topics, serving as readers of the essays, and providing students with opportunities to perform the recitation.
The Samuel Robinson Award will start accepting applications for the 2012–13 academic year in December 2012. The office of Financial Aid for Studies will consult with chaplains at related colleges and universities to develop a topic and is currently accepting suggestions for the next application cycle by email.