July 2, 2015

Not that many months ago, with the encouragement of the church staff and a number of congregational leaders I submitted the following nomination to the Church and Synagogue Library Association for their annual Outstanding Congregational Librarian Award.

To: Glenda Stormbom, Awards Chair, CSLA
Re: Nomination of Celestine Bennett for Outstanding Congregational Librarian

Reason For Nomination

Since becoming the librarian at LABC in the mid 1990’s Dr. Celestine Bennett has worked imaginatively and tirelessly to make our small library, relevant, accessible, and vibrant. When she assumed leadership of our library the church was going through a small renovation. Many of the rooms were being repainted, re-carpeted and refurnished. There was some consideration of doing away with the library since it didn’t get used that much, the collection was stagnant, and the library also was one of our main meeting rooms. Celestine insisted that there was a better way and went to work conferring with leaders about a vision for the library, sorting, purchasing, establishing policy, and letting the congregation know what it could find in the library. Since then we have a developed a very good reference section for biblical interpretation, a collection of both fiction and non-fiction that is contemporary, yet reflective of the one hundred and fifty four year history of our congregation. We have an active reading group, LABC Reads, and Celestine makes sure that copies of what that group is reading are available. We celebrate African American History Month, Women’s History Month and Cultural Diversity Month in major ways. Celestine regularly prepares a table of resources – books, periodicals, DVD’s, CD’s, etc., which are a wonder to behold. Our library is also a church history room. Celestine doubles as our church historian. The displays are interesting and well maintained. As noted, our library is also a meeting room and, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, a storage room for some of our charitable efforts. Celestine gracefully endures these infringements on traditional library protocol. Our library, and our congregation, is much the better for who Celestine is and what she does. The Outstanding Congregational Librarian Award would be well deserved and a fitting honor for a wise and humble leader.

H. James Hopkins Pastor,
Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church

What a joy it was to receive a phone call about a month ago informing me that the CSLA had responded favorably to our nomination and letters of support (written by Alean Saunders-Coffey and Carolyn Matthews) and named Celestine as their 2015 Outstanding Congregational Librarian.

Celestine will travel to the CSLA Annual Convention in Denton, Texas at the end of July to receive the award. In advance of that we will honor her in our worship service on July 5. My sermon that day will be “Education and Emancipation,” taken from Deuteronomy 6:1-9 in which Moses tells the people that they will thrive in the Promised Land only if they remember to keep studying the Torah, the teachings given to them by God. My theme will be that the command, “Do not stop learning,” is at the heart of any quest for freedom. The Coffee Hour on that Sunday will also be in Celestine’s honor. I hope to see you on the 5th.

Peace,

Jim H.