Films replete with kind words screened during Presbyterian educators’ conference
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
GALVESTON, Texas — Short testimonial films honoring each of the four educators honored Friday by the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators told the stories of experienced church workers whose dedication, talent, love and fearlessness have enhanced and even transformed the spiritual lives of perhaps thousands of Presbyterians.
The four honorees — Jami Vandock, Stephanie Fritz, Candace C. Hill and the Rev. Keith Sundberg — received their awards during a dinner attended by most of the 700 people participating in APCE’s annual event.
Vandock, director of Christian education for children and youth at Raleigh Moravian Church in Raleigh, N.C., won the Connect award. She plans curriculum and children’s programming and collaborates with the church’s pastoral assistant to create intergenerational events.
She began her career in public education as a school music teacher. Music continues to inform her church work: She can regularly be found singing and playing the ukulele during children’s church or Vacation Bible School. In her biography, she credits her Moravian upbringing with much of her musical passion and training.
“I appreciate such an amazing network of people, all of you who encourage me when I’m overwhelmed,” she told her APCE colleagues.
Fritz, the Empower honoree, is the recently-hired Christian formation associate coordinator for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. She was moderator of the General Assembly Special Committee to Study the Reformed Perspective of Christian Education in the 21st Century.
In her biography, she’s credited with empowering educators “to be more engaged, more creative, more imaginative and more effective in ministry and to empower the church in all its forms to be more attentive to and aware of the tremendous gift Christian educators are to the church.”
“APCE, you are definitely my people,” she said. “Empowering is what APCE does best and what APCE has done for me. This is a place where you can find your voice if you have not found it somewhere else.”
Hill, who received the Sustain Life Achievement award, concluded a long career in Christian education as the PC(USA)’s coordinator of educational ministries, retiring in December 2015. Her work included empowering educators to lead spiritual formation in their own congregations and presbyteries. One of her mentors, the Rev. Jack Hodges, said during her film that she brought “zest and flavor” to her work.
She called her 30 years with APCE “an amazing journey” and quoted from the prophet Jeremiah for her colleagues: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
Sundberg, the associate pastor at Wayside Presbyterian Church in Erie, Pa., is the 2019 Enrich Educator of the Year.
According to his bio, Sundberg believes that faith growth is reliving the life, death and resurrection of Christ, “every day and for as long as we live. To grow in theological thought, we must let go of what we previously believed.”
Christian curriculum parameters have expanded in recent years, he wrote, and teaching must now touch on a number of complex issues such as race, sexual orientation, ecology and genetic engineering.”
“Thanks for making me look so smart in my corner of God’s kingdom,” he said as his grandchildren took the stage to spell out “APCE” and “God bless you.”
“I just hope they find colleagues in their field as remarkable as I have,” Sundberg said.
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