From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 08:38:16


                         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 
to work."  
     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 
stewardship education.  
     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   Web page: 


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