Published on December 9, 2022 by Ashley Smith  
Cowan Nelson

Samford’s Center for Worship and the Arts continues to equip congregations to engage intergenerational, artistic worship practices that glorify God, honor Christ and join the transformative work of the Spirit in the world. Thanks to recent grants from both Lilly Endowment, Inc. and Christ is Our Salvation Foundation (C.I.O.S.) the Center has added new staff members to support its mission.

Executive Director Emily Snider Andrews now leads a team of four staff members. The Reverend Dr. Nelson R. Cowan will join the team in January 2023 as director. He comes to Samford after serving as senior pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Neptune, FL. He brings extensive pastoral and worship leadership experience in both church and academic settings. It’s the mission of the Center that inspired Cowan to join the work. “I am excited to join the Samford community and hit the ground running with the CWA,” he shared. “This position ushers in so many collaborative, creative possibilities with students, faculty, staff, surrounding churches, and community partners. I’m honored to play a small part in this important work.”

Program Manager Tracy Hanrahan joined the team in September 2022 and brings years of project coordination experience in several capacities, including as arts enrollment coordinator, as a previous CWA program manager, and as the administrative assistant to the dean. Prior to joining the School of the Arts at Samford in 2014, Hanrahan was part of the music and worship staff at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham. She spent over a decade coordinating preschool and children’s choir programs at both Dawson and St. Andrew Baptist Church in Panama City, Florida, experience she has leaned on in resourcing congregations.

Abbey Plant

Abbey Plant joined the CWA in October 2022 as promotion, community engagement, and resource coordinator. A Samford alum, Abbey has worked in worship arts and communications ministries for local churches in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, having recently served as a Worship Associate at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, and in the publications department of the USAF Air War College. Her robust experience as a worship leader for church and parachurch organizations enables strong contributions for equipping congregations to engage intergenerational worship ministry.

Cathy Nagi

Cathy Nagi serves as business coordinator, having joined the CWA in 2021. With graduate degrees in both history and education, she has a passion for institutions of higher learning while also bringing experience in billing management and marketing. After working in children’s ministries for almost a decade and volunteering as a museum docent, her personal background in both ministry and the arts allows her to contribute meaningful to the work and learning of the CWA.

Andrews noted that having new staff will allow the Center to expand its programs. In particular, CWA staff will focus on supporting Animate, a summer program in worship and the arts for teenagers and their adult mentors, which returns to campus in Summer 2023. Staff members will also engage more faculty, staff, and students in the work of supporting intergenerational worship practice in the local church, and build out insights from their learning through the creation of new resources. “In a day when some churches find themselves existing more as museums rather than movements, we are convinced that it is especially young people who help our churches stay movements and not museums,” Andrews explained. “Our staff are passionate about considering how we might faithfully prepare young people for a lifetime of discipleship, for deep connection to Christ’s church, and for meaningful service to God’s world. I’m grateful to count this team as colleagues as we proceed in this important work.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.