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For the second consecutive year Elizabeth Butler of Valdosta received first place in religion coverage in the Better Newspaper Contest of the Georgia Press Association. Butler was presented the award at the GPA convention June 17 at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. She also received a third place award in feature writing.

Earlier this year, Butler captured second place in feature writing from the Georgia Associated Press.

She is a member of Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta and is completing her fourth year on the Board of Directors of The Christian Index.


James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe in Duluth, was named Southern Seminary's 2005 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year at the school's annual luncheon June 22 at the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn.

Merritt was a student at Southern from 1978-1982, during which time he earned his master of divinity degree and Ph.D. He also served as president of the SBC from 2000-2002. Before his current pastorate, Merritt was the longtime pastor for First Baptist Church in Snellville.


Jerry Daniel Serapin, a member of First Baptist Church in Thomasville, received a master of arts in Christian Education degree from Southern Seminary May 13. Serapin is currently seeking a youth ministry position and can be reached at (229) 226-0396.


Leroy Spinks, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Bainbridge, was named "Decatur County Man of the Year" at the Annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet in Bainbridge in January of this year.