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APCE presents awards, engages in holy humor worship

Educators set to meet in Louisville in 2018

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

Participants in the ‘Using Art to Help Children, Youth and Adults BE STILL’ workshop. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

DENVER – On the final full day of the of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) annual event meeting last week in Denver, Colorado, participants attended a sampling of more than 60 workshops, participate in a holy humor worship service and honored fellow educators for excellence in their work and careers.

Guided the annual event theme of “God With Us in the Chaos,” the Rev. Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks, director of spiritual formation at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, led a workshop titled “Using Art to Help Children, Youth and Adults BE STILL.”

“The focus of the workshop is to center in, not necessarily being totally quiet, but [exploring] what it means to be still and transformed by creating,” she said. “Being able to see beauty in the midst of chaos—and recognizing that you can create beauty in the midst of chaos—can be a big help others. When we create, we make space for others to do the same thing.”

Holly Albrecht, interim director of family life at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park, Maryland, and the Rev. Nick Cheek, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Sumter, South Carolina, facilitated a workshop titled “Youth Ministry—Keeping it Simple, Keeping it Real.”

The emphasis of the workshop was to help youth leaders design activities that foster conversation and engagement, not only among youth but also with their parents or guardians.

“The workshop is aimed at listening to young people about what they need and to bring families into the process,” said Albrecht. One of the ways they suggested to involve families was a discussion exercise in which “situation cards” are used to allow peer evaluation of choices when tricky situations are encountered, while engaging an adult to moderate the conversation if it gets off track.

Cheek says a philosophy of youth ministry is an important aspect of creating new and simple methods of engagement. “Sometimes you can feel like you’re overworked—and just a hamster on a hamster wheel—so giving [educators] an opportunity to pause and think though why youth ministry exists is important,” he said. “We believe we exist to empower youth and families for lifelong discipleship.”

Denise Anderson, co-moderator of the 222nd General Assembly of the PC(USA), reacts as Carl Horton lifts his hands when the Jenga tower on stage of the APCE ‘Holy Humor’ worship service collapses. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

Led by the Rev. Carl Horton of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, the afternoon worship service incorporated holy humor as its theme. Horton said there are times when humor can break through the chaos, remind us of our shared desire to laugh and see ways in which God is brining joy into the world.

Filled with activities that encouraged participants to find humor in themselves and others, the prayers of the people were accompanied by a round of Jenga, with participants removing a block from their stack after each prayer. With the knowledge that each stack would eventually topple, the message of the prayer was clear—God is still present even when everything falls apart.

The Rev. Dr. Larron Jackson, former Denver Bronco and the Denver based area minister of the American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains, led a focused Bible study of Psalm 46. Speaking on the holy humor themed worship, he said, “This has been a very unique experience,” to the laughter of participants.

In addition to recognizing newly certified Christian Educators, APCE presented its annual awards later in the evening, based on the organization’s values of “CONNECT, EMPOWER, SUSTAIN and ENRICH.” The connect and empower awards were added for the 2017 annual event.

APCE 2017 annual award winners Anne Wilson, Laurie Farquharson, Bette Case and Ruth Cole Burcaw. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

Bette Case, from the Presbytery of the Western Reserve, received the CONNECT award in recognition of her ability to bring educators together for common learning.

Ruth Cole Burcaw received the EMPOWER award in recognition of her participation in the cooperative ministries for the Moravian Church.

Anne Wilson received the SUSTAIN Life Achievement award. During her career, Anne served as a church educator at Memorial Drive, St. Philip, and Northwoods Presbyterian Churches in Houston. She is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Texas Presbyterian Foundation and Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary; a member of the Synod of the Sun Permanent Judicial Commission; and the treasurer for the South Central region of Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (SCRAPCE).

Laurie Farquharson was named the ENRICH Educator of the Year. She has spent the last 27 years as Director of Christian Education at Wekiva Presbyterian Church in Longwood, Florida. A “home-grown” educator, Laurie receiving a call to ministry in her own local church after a short career in elementary education and years of church volunteer work.

The 2018 meeting of APCE will be held January 30 – February 3 in Louisville, Kentucky.

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