Caleb Pickering (’03) the volunteer coordinator of the Green Street Church of Christ’s ministry to the homeless, was the 2014 winner of the Mary Morris Award for Exemplary Service to Society, an annual award given by the university to a member of the Lipscomb University community who demonstrates a high level of service to the community and the church.
The award is given in memory of Mary Morris, former education professor and founder and director of the Center for Character Development at Lipscomb. Her family has established an award to be given each year – The Mary Morris Award for Exemplary Service to Society.
Pickering, who began a ministry to the homeless called Fools for Christ while a student at Lipscomb, is in good company with other Mary Morris Award winners including Agape director Tom Burton, Healing Hands International founder Randy Steger, former editor of The Contributor Andrew Krinks and Lipscomb professor Richard Goode, among others.
In 1998, Pickering went with a group of students down to the banks of the Cumberland River to meet the homeless men and women camping out there. Over time that core group of students began hosting weekly meals for the homeless.
Photos: (top) The parents of Mary Morris along with Caleb Pickering. (below) Pickering with Lipscomb professor Phillip Camp, who nominated him for the award.
After graduating, Pickering’s student group, Fools for Christ, evolved into a full-fledged ministry of the Green Street Church of Christ.
“This ministry is engaging the (homeless) community around our church on a level playing field,” Pickering told a group of students gathered to see the presentation of the award during weekly chapel. “We accept everyone as they are.”
The ministry provides weekly meals for the homeless and allows them to camp on the church property or sometimes sleep in the church sanctuary. The relationship with the university has continued as many Lipscomb students have logged service hours working at the church.
“In my journey for a personal relationship with God, I wasn’t able to find it in the regular ways,” Pickering said, “but when I came to Lipscomb and got involved with the homeless program, I finally found that personal relationship with God through this ministry.”
Pickering advised students to take time now, while in college, to serve the community. They have more time now to do it then they will ever have in the future, he said.
“The homeless are not just ‘homeless people,’ they are a group of individual people. Each has a unique story and only by addressing each story can you have an impact,” Pickering said. “We have seen many of their stories turned around. Some have not, but at least those stories are heard and remembered and there is value in that.”
Morris died in September 2005 at the age of 36 due to cancer. The award is given annually to someone who displays the same spirit of service she possessed. Recipients should exhibit a spirit of volunteerism, engage in meaningful civic activities in the community that help spread God’s light, demonstrate a commitment to Christian missions wherever they may be, be an advocate for Lipscomb University, and exhibit vision in creating new avenues to expand Christian principles in unconventional ways.