From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
RECORD CROWD PACKS CHURCH EDUCATORS EVENT
05 May 1996 08:38:16
95045 RECORD CROWD PACKS CHURCH EDUCATORS EVENT
by Eva Stimson
ATLANTA--More than 1,000 church educators from across the United
States and Canada packed plenary and worship sessions here at the
1995 conference of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators
(APCE), Feb. 8-11.
Conference organizers said this year's registration was the
highest ever for an APCE convention. Close to 150 people requested
that their names be added to a waiting list after registration
closed. Others just came, hoping to be admitted to a workshop or
two, even though most events were filled to capacity.
"I am increasingly convinced you are the future of the
church," the Rev. Fred B. Craddock told the overflow crowd of
educators at one of the conference worship services. As society
becomes more and more secular, Craddock explained, we cannot assume
everyone is familiar with the church's language, liturgy and Bible
"The only way preaching is effective is that the listeners
recognize what the preacher is talking about," Craddock said. "And
the only way they'll recognize it is if they've been taught."
Craddock, professor emeritus at Emory University's Candler
School of Theology in Atlanta and an ordained minister in the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), preached at five conference
worship services. His messages explored aspects of the conference
theme: "Good News for a Hope-Starved World."
"Our world is becoming increasingly cynical," Craddock
observed in one sermon. "It is difficult to witness to the hope
that is within us."
Yet "hope is tenacious," he declared in a later service. "Hope
can live on one calorie a day. ... Hope is a miracle, I guess."
He concluded with a warning: "Don't ever take away someone's
hope. Hope is all some people have."
Liturgist and music leader for the worship services was Melva
Wilson Costen, a Presbyterian elder and chairperson of the worship
and music departments at the Interdenominational Theological Center
(ITC) in Atlanta, Ga.
The Rev. John Westerhoff, a widely known author and professor
in the field of Christian education, led participants in an intense
two-hour session titled "The Making of Christians in the Modern
World." Westerhoff, who currently serves on the staff of St. Luke's
Episcopal Church in Atlanta, challenged educators to redefine their
task to fit a world in transition.
"We are living in a period of tremendous change," he said,
"which means that everything we are doing now probably isn't going
We have reached the end of the Enlightenment era, in which
faith was defined as belief in an intellectual truth, Westerhoff
said. We have also reached the end of the era of Constantine, when
clergy were regarded as leaders in the community and being a
Christian meant being a good citizen.
"Nobody cares what the church has to say anymore," Westerhoff
declared. At one time "we could count on public schools to do at
least basic Christian education," he added. "Not anymore."
The key to making Christians in today's world is formation,
in which people participate in the practice of faith within a faith
community, Westerhoff said. "The church ought to be an educational
ministry rather than have one."
Real Christian education will not happen, he added, until we
focus on developing spirituality. Westerhoff defined spirituality
as "ordinary, everyday life lived in ever-deepening relationship
to God." He defined teaching as "an artistic act," in which you
"arrange the environment so people can encounter the Word of God."
A variety of workshops and focus groups gave APCE participants
opportunities to explore local landmarks such as the Carter
Presidential Center, learn about the ministries of key Atlanta
congregations, or develop skills in areas ranging from puppetry to
The Association of Presbyterian Church Educators is affiliated
with four denominations: the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the
Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
and the Reformed Church in America. Next year's APCE conference
will be Feb. 7-10 in Chicago, Ill.
# # #
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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