A memorial service for Dr. Katharine Bryan was held in Knoxville on November 6. Katharine was a colleague while we both served the Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention but she was also a valued mentor and friend to me.
Katharine served as a mission educator for a number of years including 12 years as executive director of the Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union. After “retiring” from her work with the state convention, she served as director of adult education at Carson-Newman University and then as interim director of North Carolina. Katharine was a visionary mission leader, an insightful educator, and a committed church leader, but I remember her most as a mentor.
Katharine exhibited the best qualities of a mentor.
She was willing to make herself available. I enjoyed a number of lunches with Katharine as well as “drop in” visits at her office. Although she was always busy, she was ready to make the time to talk about personal and professional development.
Katharine brought a great deal of experience to her role as a mentor. She had worked for several Baptist entities, so she knew the way that organizations work. She understood the challenges of working with Baptists in both judicatories and in local congregations. She also was very perceptive about how people work (or fail to work) together.
I know few people who have both the insight and vision that Katharine possessed. She could identify core concerns, possible barriers, necessary resources, desired alliances, and opportunities for growth that often escaped others.
She could also be very tough in confronting problems and ideas. Some might prefer the word “firm,” but there was a strength that was at the foundation of her personality that she could draw on to confront a situation or a person. She did not suffer fools lightly or ignore poor standards.
Katharine was most of all an encourager. She found a way to help a friend or protégé work through the most ill-conceived idea to bring clarity and focus. Perhaps this was her greatest spiritual gift, one that blessed the many people who worked under her supervision and alongside her.
Thank you, Katharine, for being a good and faithful servant of God who blessed so many of us.