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APCE Annual Event preacher: Reconnecting with our joy is vital for Christian educators

The Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon completes an invigorating conference with a rousing sermon

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon, Vice President for Ministry Innovation at the Board of Pensions, sent educators attending last week’s APCE Annual Event home well-fed with God’s word and Cannon’s own prodigious preaching talents.

Using Nehemiah 8:10 as his preaching text, Cannon led with gymnast Katelyn Ohashi’s viral floor exercise, which earned her a perfect score from the judges.

“The most important thing about her routine is the joy. She clearly loves what she is doing, and it shows. The joy on her face is contagious,” Cannon said. A subsequent NPR report discussed how her coach at UCLA, Valorie Kondos Field, helped Ohashi rekindle her love for the sport.

“What do you do when you lose your joy, when you just don’t glow like you once did?” Cannon asked. “Who do you go to when your joy is gone?” One thing to keep in mind as a source, he said, came from educator Dr. Jonathan Jackson: “Christian education is that ministry that undergirds all ministries of the church.”

Nehemiah knew “true joy and restoration could come only by the inner strength provided by the Lord,” Cannon said. “The shiny new wall would not restore the people. They needed inner strength to keep them moving.”

We can reconnect to our joy through the alliterative process of remember, repent and restore, according to Cannon, who offered examples of each during his sermon.

Morgan Neville’s film “20 Feet from Stardom” tells us the story of great backup singers including the great Darlene Love. “It’s a movie about people who recognized God had them right where they needed to be,” Cannon explained. “Who would Gladys Knight be without the Pips? You would not have KC if there was no Sunshine Band. Every now and then, you ought to give God thanks for the background folks who make you who you are.”

“You need to realize that God has a way of bringing us to a point where we need to repent,” Cannon said, adding he wonders how an Old Testament prophet like Nehemiah can speak to APCE in 2024.

“How was Katelyn Ohashi able to complete that championship performance? She was miserable and had lost her joy, and Coach Val helped her rekindle her love and joy. She said, ‘I had to earn her trust that I cared about her more as a human being than I did as a gymnast,’” Cannon said, adding that APCE members and friends “are more than Christian educators, more than pastors and youth directors. That may pay the bills, but what makes you who you are is your relationship with Almighty God.”

Cannon, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, recalled his Carolina Panthers playing in a close conference championship game a few years ago. He was watching the game on an upstairs television while his children watched on the downstairs TV. As Cannon chewed his fingernails down the stretch of the back-and-forth contest, he noticed his children were cheering and groaning at different times than he was. It turned out his cable television provider was providing an uneven signal throughout the house.

“God told me, ‘Every now and then, it’s OK to open up your ear when someone else is having a celebration,” Cannon said. “The joy of the Lord is your strength. That’s it!”

Check back with pcusa.org for further reporting on last week’s APCE Annual event.


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