Thom Cunningham, Bruce Harvey and the Rev. John Johnson are celebrated for innovative and faithful ministry
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Three longtime educators were recognized for their many years of ministry in the field of Christian education Friday during the Association of Partners in Christian Education Annual Event held last week in St. Louis and online.
APCE named Thom Cunningham, the Director of Faith Formation and Mission at First Presbyterian Church of Deerfield, Illinois, as its ENRICH Educator of the Year.
SUSTAIN Lifetime Achievement Awards went to Bruce Harvey of Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the Rev. John Johnson of Burlington, North Carolina.
In addition to APCE honoring the three award-winners, Tatayana Richardson and Jaime Staehle, the co-chairs of the 2025 Annual Event, which will held Jan. 29 through Feb. 1 at the historic Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, announced the theme for the next annual event, “A Stirring in our Souls: Wrestling with God and Church Toward a More Beloved Community.” Like its 2024 predecessor, that event will also be offered to in-person and online participants.
Cunningham holds degrees in theology and sociology from Elmhurst University and a Master of Theology from McCormick Theological Seminary. He is a certified Christian educator in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
He began his service at FPC of Deerfield in 1991, where his positive attitude and playful nature as well as his out-of-the-box thinking quickly endeared him to the youth. His passion for faith formation is on clear display through his creative Bible studies, spiritual art projects and humorous stories.
His work at FPC includes creating and leading a contemporary celebration worship service, joining with an agency to establish and maintain a shelter at the church, and partnering with communities in Ghana and Mexico to help bring clean water, improve health facilities and support local churches.
Cunningham has been an APCE member for 30 years, having held several positions within the organization. In 2020, he was part of the team reimagining how to transform the Annual Event into a virtual experience. He cohosted the first three virtual events.
In the Presbytery of Chicago, he has led numerous confirmation retreats, served on the Youth Council and Christian Education Committee, moderated the presbytery’s Resource Center and currently works with the C.A.R.E. Committee on Antiracism ministry team, training and debriefing presbytery committees and individuals on cultural understandings and self-awareness. He is also a cohort leader with the PC(USA)’s Office of Christian Formation.
He’s been married for 31 years and has three children.
Harvey is the son of Presbyterian ruling elders. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Washington & Lee University, a master’s in Christian education at the Presbyterian Schook of Christian Education (now Union Presbyterian Seminary) and a certificate in spiritual formation from Columbia Theological Seminary.
With experience as a camp counselor and program director, he served four congregations in educational ministry, most recently The Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, until his retirement in 2019. He became a certified Christian educator in 1981 and a ruling elder in the PC(USA) in 1996. He and his wife, Bridget, live in Fredericksburg and have three children and five grandchildren.
Along with The Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg, Harvey worked at First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Kentucky, Central Presbyterian Church in Bristol, Virginia, and First Presbyterian Church of Athens, Georgia, to build up each body by seeking diverse and gifted people dedicated to faith formation.
At Montreat Conference Center, he was a small group leader at 14 youth conferences and directed a Chrisian education conference. He served on the Camp Hanover board, on the APCE Cabinet for six years, and on three faculty search committees at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
The Rev. John Johnson
Johnson is the son of a Presbyterian minister and a Christian educator. He completed his studies at Stetson University and the Presbyterian School of Christian Education, now Union Presbyterian Seminary, serving three churches in North Carolina and one in Florida. He then earned his Master of Divinity degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary and was ordained by Salem Presbytery, serving churches in the Greensboro and Burlington areas of North Carolina before retiring in 2021.
He’s served in many leadership roles for APCE over three decades, including work to upgrade the organization’s original website. He recently completed a term on APCE’s Governance Ministry Team and has been a fixture at APCE annual events for more than 20 years as the conference photographer.
Following his retirement, Johnson has served Salem Presbytery as its communications director and in a similar capacity at First Presbyterian Church in Burlington, North Carolina.
He is married to Debbie, a retired high school math teacher. With his marriage he gained two daughters.
After 44 years of service to the church, he said he continues to be amazed at God’s providence and blessing and considers it a privilege to live the life to which he has been called.
Read more about the award recipients here.
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