ALEXANDRIA, VA – The Virginia Theological Seminary awarded the Dean’ s Cross for Servant Leadership in Church and Society for the very first time on February 15, 2009 to Mrs. Octavia “Tay” Wood Cooper, a lifelong servant leader in church and society, and to the Rev. Canon Harold T. Lewis, Ph.D., D.D., D.C.L, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Dean’s Cross was awarded by the Very Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of Virginia Seminary, and by the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, bishop of Virginia, during a special Evensong service in the Seminary Chapel.
Established in November 2008, the Dean’s Cross award recognizes outstanding leaders who embody their baptismal vows to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.” Selected annually by the Seminary Dean in consultation with the Chair of the Board, the Honorees receive a handmade silver cross, modeled after the Seminary Chapel cross, and a certificate.
“Our work here at Virginia Seminary is formation,” said the Very Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of Virginia Seminary, “and this award celebrates the well-formed life, which involves living out the values of the baptismal covenant and making a difference in society.”
Dr. Lewis was honored for his Gospel values and powerful witness to the genius of Anglicanism with its respect for learning, tolerance, and openness. Author of A Church for the Future: South Africa as the Crucible for Anglicanism in a New Century, Lewis tells the story of the South African Church from its role in the first Lambeth conference to the present day. During his dinner remarks, Lewis said, “I often talk about having a glimpse of the heavenly Jerusalem as the very purpose of our existence, and with this award am reminded by that great hymn by Dr. Bowie: “Give us, oh God, the strength to build the city that hath stood too long a dream, whose laws are love, whose crown is servanthood, and where the sun that shinneth is God’s grace for human good.”
Cooper was recognized for her tireless and critical work promoting theological education through The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) which provides book and other resources to seminaries in the Anglican Communion. Cooper, whose husband is the Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper, rector of Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City, recognized early on the importance of theological education and the attendant desperate needs in Anglican Seminaries worldwide.
Virginia Theological Seminary, founded in 1823, is the largest of the accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women, representing all eight of the domestic provinces of the Episcopal Church, as well as students from several different provinces and countries within the Anglican Communion, for service in the Church, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas.