Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the national conference of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, this year held in Baltimore. 2015 marks my fourth year in a row of participating in the APCE annual event. Gathering with hundreds of other ministry leaders - all of whom are passionate about the educational ministries of the church - has been an inspiring and emboldening experience for me. I travel to the conference with questions and concerns. I leave the conference with answers and ideas (and if I'm being honest, new questions and concerns as well). Ultimately, participating in national conferences and conventions such as APCE leave me feeling hopeful.
This year's conference was particularly full of hope. Keynoting the event was Rev. Dr. Brian K. Blount, president of Union Presbyterian Seminary (and, coincidentally, my academic adviser for my time in seminary). To say that his lectures and sermons were inspiring and hopeful would be an understatement, but that's not all they were.
His lectures and sermons provided an important illustration of modern educational practice: sound biblical scholarship; questions to ponder; an appropriate and effective use of technology; video; audience participation. As I tweeted following the opening worship service (okay... it may have been during opening worship... but we were supposed to be using our devices. I promise!):
His words were were profoundly convicting. They offered a reminder that while there is hope for the future - and after all, we as Christians are a people of hope - it doesn't mean we get to sit on the sidelines and watch how it goes from there. Brian's words for the educational leaders of the PC(USA) were precisely the words that are needed for such a time as this. I left feeling hopeful.
Dr. Kathy Dawson, Associate Professor of Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary, was named by APCE as this year's Educator of the Year, in light of all she has contributed to the church's educational ministries in parish settings and in academic settings (and she has contributed a lot!). As part of her acceptance of this award, Dr. Dawson went the extra mile, launching a new initiative called Hope4CE, which seeks to provide conversation starters, resources, and innovative ideas for educators. This new resource leaves me feeling hopeful.
Dr. Dawson invited me to submit a resource for the Hope4CE website, which was posted on the site this morning. I'm providing a link to it at the end of this post.
So, is there any hope at all for Christian Education and Faith Formation in the 21st century church? I believe the answer is a resounding "Yes!" How do we fix Sunday School? What about Bible Studies? How do we share the old, old story in fresh new ways? I don't step into full time ministry with all the answers or the foolproof methods. I don't know the precise direction we need to take to arrive in a new place of robust faith formation. But I know "a new place" is the place to which we are being called. I know we are called to work as a team as we discern that new place. I know we will need to be willing to try new things, even as we anxiously remember past successes. I know there are resources filled with folks from around the country (and around the world!) who are asking the same questions and exploring the same paradigm shifts. And I know that, through it all, we are surrounded and guided by the One who is with us every step of the way.
LIFELONG FAITH JOURNAL (cross-posted from Hope4CE)
The Lifelong Faith journal is one of several initiatives of the LifelongFaith Associates organization directed by John Roberto, a prominent scholar of faith formation whose work was profiled by Hope4CE in a recent post. The journal, published quarterly, focuses on the faith formation of all ages, with the hope that ministry leaders might...
[click here to read full post on Hope4CE]
I'm a husband, a father, a news junkie, a theatre enthusiast, an amateur foodie, a wannabe barista, and an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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