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Rev. Dr. Jasper Keith Receives the 2006 John Rea Thomas Award

The John Rea Thomas Award presented by the Presbyterian Association of Specialized Pastoral Ministries (PASPM) is given to persons, organizations, institutions or congregations that have demonstrated excellence in the fields of pastoral care and counseling.

The Presbyterian Association for Specialized Pastoral Ministries (PASPM) is pleased to announce the selection of the Reverend Jasper N. Keith, Jr. as the recipient of the 2006 John Rea Thomas award in recognition of Dr. Keith's outstanding leadership in developing, promoting and encouraging the collaboration between the church, psychiatric hospitals and other healthcare agencies to provide for pastoral care education of local clergy through Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) programs.

Dr. Keith was ordained by the First Baptist Church of Hogansville, Georgia on February 27, 1955. In 1967, he was certified a CPE Supervisor and served as chaplain at various facilities of the Georgia Mental Health System. He became known and valued as an educator in the Atlanta theological community, serving as Clinical Instructor and Visiting Professor of Pastoral Care at Interdenominational Theological Center and at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. In 1996, he was called to be Pastor at Decatur Presbyterian Church. From 1996, Dr. Keith supervised a group of students in an innovative program at the Decatur Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Keith has been active in the Southeast Region and in the National Committees and Commissions of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) serving on almost all of the professional committees and helping to develop new ways of organizing the pastoral care and counseling business. He served as Regional Director for the Southeast Region since 1983 and in 2000 he was the recipient of the J. Obert Kempson Distinguished Service Award. He was president of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (1984 –1986) and in 2004 the ACPE presented him with its Distinguished Service Award.

He has been a member of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta since June 12, 1973. He has been active on several committees in Presbytery, including a committee to build a Presbytery office/resource center. He has served as interim pastor of fifteen congregations in Atlanta Presbytery from 1973 - 94. On March 4, 2006 he became an "honorably retired" member of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta and Pastor Emeritus of the Decatur Presbyterian Church. Dr. Keith and his wife, Betty, are the parents of three sons and three daughters-in-law, seven grandchildren and one great grandson.

It is with great pleasure that the Presbyterian Association of Specialized Pastoral Ministries (PASPM) honors the long and distinguished service of the Reverend Jasper Keith, Jr., ThD. for his outstanding service to the church, to ministry in specialized settings and to the education of clergy in pastoral care and counseling.

From the PC(USA) News Story covering this Award presentation:

The Rev. Jasper Keith of Greater Atlanta Presbytery, who earned the John Rea Thomas award for specialized pastoral ministries, received the honor on behalf of his teachers and colleagues. He said his teachers are the "saints who cry out in their suffering."

Keith recounted a pivotal moment in his ministry when a frail and disheveled woman in a residential-care facility stopped him in the hall and asked, "Does God love me?" When he reached in his pocket to read from Psalms, the woman stopped him with a wrinkled, arthritic hand.

Keith recalled her saying, "Don't pull the book on me. What I really want to know is, do you care for us?"

How people of faith respond to the questions "Does God love me?" and "Do you care for me?" from anguished persons reveals the true heart of their mission and ministry, Keith said. Many Christians are uncomfortable looking in the direction of the struggle to care for marginalized persons, he said.