Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I recently attended the Association of Christian Educators (APCE) Annual Event in January. The purpose of this conference is to learn, worship, connect and reconnect with others who work and volunteer in Christian Education. The conference was held in Nashville, TN and theme was Awake My Soul. The worship services throughout the week did just that-my soul was awakened. The music, preaching, prayer, and keynote speaker were moving and I experienced the presence of the Holy Sprit in my soul. The following are some other highlights and insights.

I attended the Presbyterian Organized in Nurture and Training (POINT) conference prior to the APCE Annual Event. Our keynote speaker for this conference was Dr. Susan E. Hylen, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. She used the story of the “Woman at the well” to help us explore and articulate our own expressions of faith as well as explore how we might lead/experience corporate discernment of faith in our community. I was most intrigued by Hylen’s unique interpretation of the story and especially the character of the woman. In many interpretations the woman is portrayed as “nincompoop,” asking seemingly unanswerable questions. In Heylen’s interpretation the woman is viewed as asking deep questions of Jesus stemming from her knowledge and beliefs of her own religious and cultural background. I wish I could remember all she said about this!

I led my first workshop at this conference and it went very well. It was a confidence building experience as well as learning experience. The workshop’s title was Christian Education in Small Congregations. The planning process itself was useful in that it made me systematically think about FPCH and what we do that is unique because we are a small congregation. Some of these things include our partnership programs (i.e. NETworks Youth Ministry, NETworks Vacation Bible School and the Ecumenical Men’s Breakfast group), adapting curriculum and resources to fit fewer numbers, and our Family Faith Talks workshops. People in the workshop asked very thoughtful questions and shared their own stories as well resources unknown to me.

I attended four workshops three of which are noteworthy and so I “speak” to them. First, I attended a workshop titled Encouraging Family Conversations About Faith. The workshop should have been called “How to Talk with Children about God.” In other words the focus of this workshop was looking at ways to help adults, mainly parents, talk with and answer questions children have about God and faith. The presenter had some really great insights on ways to do this. I would like to offer a workshop on this topic for parents and any interested adults in our congregation.

Another workshop I went to was titled Murder in the Pew. The whole focus of the workshop was ecclesiastical mystery novels. The presenter, and avid mystery reader, took us through her bibliography of mysteries that in some way are linked to religion. Some take place in religious building and in other books the main character is a monk or clergy. I did not know there were so many of these types of mysteries. One could have a whole book club based on these mysteries. If anyone wants a copy of her bibliography let me know and I’ll make you a copy!

The final workshop I attended was titled Helping Others: Servant or Sucker. This was the best workshop I attended because I think the potential applications for the Mission Outreach ministry of FPCH are plentiful. In this workshop we looked at the culture of poverty including the different levels of poverty. We talked about how a person or congregation can begin to take on the issue of poverty in practical ways. There is too much information to summarize here. I will say I was so inspired by the presenter that I bought her book titled Loving Our Neighbor: A Thoughtful Approach to Helping People in Poverty. I’m looking forward to reading it and reinforcing my understanding of these issues. I hope to gain insights on ways FPCH can provide effective and compassionate ministry to those in poverty. I’d be happy to share the book with anyone who is interested!

I must also say a “couple of words” about the “private” concert by Christian singer Amy Grant. I was first introduced to Amy Grant’s music as a middle school student by one my youth group leaders. I have loved her music ever since then. Amy Grant lives in and attends a Presbyterian church in Nashville and asked the local conference committee if she could come spend some time with us. Her concert was amazing. She told stories of her family and her faith. These heartfelt stories were enhanced by singing of some old favorites as well as a few new songs. Even though I was sitting in a banquet hall with a thousand other people I felt like I was sitting in Amy’s living room chatting and listening to her. It was a night to be remembered!

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