By Vicki Marsh Kabat
Soft-spoken, poised and articulate, Beth Kilpatrick takes her time. A former missionary in inner-city Los Angeles, she waited until she knew the questions she wanted answered before she chose her educational path in graduate school.
"The work of the church and of social justice really go hand in glove and I want to do both," said Beth (MSW 2009/MDiv Candidate, 2012).
Married and the mother of two sons, Benjamin and Andrew, she began her dual degree program taking one course a semester for four years. Husband Andy began his MDiv degree at the same time. This past year, she attended classes full time to finish her MSW degree.
"At home, instead of playing house or fort, our boys used to play seminary," Beth laughs.
During the past five years, though, Beth has made good use of her time. She was part of the School's congregational social work team that researched and wrote curricula on poverty for churches; interned at Lake Shore Baptist Church, where she developed a program, led a workshop at a national conference, and co-authored a paper on promoting confidentiality in the church; and co-presented a workshop for local church administrators called "Benevolence 101." She also was part of the social work practice class last fall that helped organize and initiate the first Campus Kitchen in Texas, based on a national model of food-recovery and distribution to people experiencing hunger.
"I feel empowered to go out and be a part of community change locally and globally, and feel that it's possible to do it!"
That's a lot of congregational experience for someone whose concentration is community development, but she wanted that background. "I learned a tremendous amount about loving people in the church, and the power to bring healing and change in this position," she says. "I was able to get my footing there as a woman and as a leader."
This spring, Beth's internship was with Waco Community Development Corp. in north central Waco. She spearheaded a neighborhood revitalization strategy, interviewing nearly 40 community leaders and then developing action steps and benchmarks per sector for the next five years. She applauds the leadership and influence of Mike Stone, executive director, and Walker Moore (MSW 2007/MDiv Candidate 2010), community organizer, at WCDC.
"They find value in existing community agencies and ways to work with them. They taught me a lot about how to run a nonprofit and how to stick to your priorities," she says.
The internship was a great experience for Beth. "I feel empowered to go out and be a part of community change locally and globally, and feel that it's possible to do it!"
Although it's been a slower journey toward her MSW degree than it is for most students, it has been no less transformative for Beth. "I am a stronger, more mature woman for having been through this program. Colossians 3 says that Christ is revealed in the world around us as we, individually, operate in the full capacity he has given us in the larger body of Christ.
"I really feel like the School of Social Work is that picture of Christ. I have been able to work as part of the greater body of Christ and of Christ working through us."