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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Gracie finds her gift, and so do we


Dr. Kathy L. Dawson, who writes each year for Special Offerings about a beloved fish, appears on Between Two Pulpits

July 1,  2022

Dr. Kathy Dawson, lower row, was the guest Monday of Between Two Pulpits hosts Lauren Rogers and Dr. William McConnell. (Screenshot)

The educator and author who for 15 years has brought Presbyterians the adventures of Gracie the fish recently revealed to a Between Two Pulpits audience the secret to keeping her underwater tales current: Take an annual trip to the local aquarium.

“After I do my aquarium visit, I do some research,” Dr. Kathy L. Dawson, the Benton Family Associate Professor of Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary, told Between Two Pulpits hosts Lauren Rogers and Dr. Bill McConnell, the interim director of Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. Watch the 20-minute conversation here. Download the latest Gracie installment, “Gracie Finds Her Gift,” by clicking here.

The prompt Dawson received to help tell this adventure of Gracie and her friends, including Ephraim Eel, Angie Angelfish, Gus Grouper, the siblings Benji and Belinda Butterflyfish, and the sage Old Codfish, involved not only fish working together, but highlighting the unique gifts of individuals.

What, McConnell wondered, has Gracie taught Dawson?

“Despite her 15 years of existence, Gracie remains a little child” and is “sometimes insecure about her own abilities,” Dawson said. “She wants to be generous but sometimes doesn’t know how.” She makes mistakes, but somehow her mistakes get resolved in the end, and she has Old Codfish, “who helps Gracie to identify the gift she doesn’t think she has,” to lean on. All the characters have their own gifts and abilities, “and each brought a gift forward on a common project” for the current installment, Dawson said.

Why is it important, Rogers asked, for young people to identify their different gifts?

It’s mainly because adults in the church often tell children and youth they will serve the church when they get older, and that they are the future of the church. “I want them to see they have gifts to offer,” Dawson said. “They may watch the adults around them and see how parents and others are serving others. As they age, their gifts are identified by themselves and others” to enable them “to contribute as well.”

To communicate that message of hope to young people, Dawson acknowledged “a lot of anxiety” among children and adolescents. She attended a conference on the effects that anxiety is having on learning and on mental health. Participants learned those anxieties ought “to be addressed head-on, including the fear of war, reinforcing that God is with us,” Dawson said. “That is a message that transcends age and is important for children and youth — and adults.”

“You see in the gospel [passage] when Jesus is being tempted,” McConnell said. “The temptations are sometimes toward forgetting who and whose we are. There is nothing wrong with fear, but we have to understand the angels will bear us up,” a specific temptation the devil tried and failed with Jesus. “But God continues to be our refuge and strength.”

“Discernment is a key,” Dawson said, “knowing what is of God and what isn’t.”

Rogers asked Dawson a question she normally asks during the broadcast: What is your hope for the future of the Church?

Dawson hopes people have learned enough during the pandemic to “let go of some things that have reached their saturation point or spoilage date and embrace the creativity that abounds.” More on that is available through the private Facebook pate, Hope4CE, a companion page to this website.

“It gives me a lot of hope for the Church, that we are not a dying institution,” Dawson said. “There are new things being birthed in congregations across the nation.”

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Between Two Pulpits

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Angela Wyatt, 1001 Apprentice, 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Yun Kyoung Yang,  Editorial Assistant, Korean, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation  

Let us pray

Dear God, we thank you for the witnesses who reveal to us that the most important thing we can do is be present for our neighbor in need, just as you are present for us in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.