A plenary with plenty of help from her friends

North Carolina church educator calls on her colleagues to lend their voices to APCE’s national event

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks

LOUISVILLE ­— Asked to address the 1,000 or so people taking in the first-ever online national event of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks did the sensible thing: she got some of her favorite church educators to help her by sharing their thoughts from their own settings.

Kyremes-Parks, director of children’s and family ministries at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, North Carolina, delivered Saturday’s plenary with some help from her friends from around the country. She identified them by first name only, although several are prominent nationally.

“It’s been a time of revelation,” said one of ministry during the pandemic. “Part of what’s striking to me is that some things I thought were steady turned out to be ephemeral.”

“It’s been a wonderful awakening for our church family,” said another. “So many great new programs have been embraced.”

“It’s been a chance to spend time with family and slow down,” said the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), an opportunity “to think about life right now rather than life ahead, to stay in the moment and learn to live as I am, as God has given me.”

“I always thought the new virtual church would be the wave of the future,” said another. “But I thought it would take 30 years to get there — not a few weeks.”

Kyremes-Parks said educators “planted seeds in me and continue to be powerful forces in my life and the life of our family.” Recently she had the opportunity to say goodbye to one such powerful force who was dying. “I gave her a last hug and said, ‘Thank you for teaching me about Jesus,’” she said. The woman responded, “It was my pleasure.”

Turning once again to her educator friends, Kyremes-Parks asked, “What has sustained you throughout the pandemic?”

“Life is not solo play,” said one. “I was alone during the pandemic, but I wasn’t lonely because the church is a connectional church.”

“For every Sunday school lesson that falls flat,” said one woman, “there is the parent who tells you their child included you in their nightly prayers.”

“God is God, and I am not,” one educator said, “and I am so grateful.”

Deciding the attendees at that point in the plenary would benefit by an “APCEpalooza dance party,” Kyremes-Parks played a pair of videos designed to get people moving and away from their screens — The Four Tops’ “I’ll Be There” and “Let’s Get Loud” by Jennifer Lopez. When it was over, Kyremes-Parks dedicated the first-ever APCEpalooza dance party to the late Glenn Bannerman.

When she asked her friends about pandemic blessings, the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, mentioned the importance of putting our hand to the plow to work with our siblings in Christ. “At the end of the day, rest,” Moffett suggested. “Give everything up to God, who is the author and finisher of our faith and the keeper of our lives.”

“Even Jesus,” said another educator, “took time to breathe and take care of himself.”

“Ask for help, my friends,” one said. “It’s hard doing educational ministry right now, but I believe most people want to help us.”

“We belong to God, but we also belong to each other — even when we don’t agree,” one said.

“We have stepped out of the boat,” another woman said. “We need to keep our eyes on Jesus.”

“I encourage the church to take this time to be less busy,” one man said. “I don’t know if it’s healthy to keep doing business as usual. I feel like we are staying in this productivity pipeline that’s not healthy for anyone.”


Kyremes-Parks told a harrowing story of a stabbing that took place at a church she used to serve. The violent act, which occurred when children were in the building, was followed by “days and weeks of sadness, anger and thanksgiving that it wasn’t worse,” she said. “Why did this happen? Why isn’t there more support for people with mental illness? How do we create a safe space for these children?”

Her own children joined her at church a few days after the traumatic event to rearrange the space where the stabbing had occurred to give other children “a new space to explore,” she said. “My children did not complain or stop helping until it was done. I knew it would take some time and that it wasn’t something I could do on my own.”

Church educators are seed planters, “the ones who articulate and help imagine the expansive love of God,” she said. “Usually we only get glimpses of the way our work has taken root and grown. Taking care of ourselves is how we sustain hope.”

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