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APCE to celebrate ‘50+1’ years at annual conference

With the 2021 in-person gathering canceled because of COVID, Christian educators look forward to broadening their circle of faith in 2022

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Even with the COVID-related risks, delays and uncertainty that have surrounded the annual Association of Presbyterian Church Educators event, co-chair Candace Hill said what excites her the most about next week’s event is being with people who are close to her heart.

A year ago, the 2021 in-person annual conference, which was going to celebrate APCE’s 50th anniversary, was postponed because of the pandemic. “Anything But Ordinary Time” became the first-ever virtual APCE event.

Those coming to the 2022 event, “Circle of Faith: 50 years + one and beyond” in Chicago Feb. 9-12 have a lot of pent-up emotion, including pain, weariness, and loss.  And they are looking to the future, APCE organizers said.

“This is our circle of faith with people who have been part of us for a long time,” Hill says. “It’s about the connections we made and will be making.”

As former coordinator of educational ministries in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a retired certified Christian educator, Hill knows the importance of the APCE circle in connecting, enriching, empowering and sustaining those serving in the faith formation and educational ministries of the church.

The Rev. Kristy DePree, left, and Candace Hill are co-chairs of the annual APCE event, which is set for next week in Chicago and online.

Along with a diverse group of leaders for the 2022 event, Hill and co-chair the Rev. Kristy DePree are looking forward  to widening the circles of faith for those coming in person — and for those joining online for the worship services, plenaries, award presentations and the “50 + one and beyond” celebration.

As conference music leader Mark Miller, associate professor of Church Music and composer in residence at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, has reflected on APCE’s conference theme, he said he’s been asking himself some hard questions.

‘We will continue to draw the circle of our communities wide, for wide is the welcome of God’s powerful and eternally expansive love.’

In his essay “What will the Soundtrack be for the Church in this Generation,” he wonders whether the sweet and moving songs that he composed and performed and the conferences and workshops he’s led have enabled white Christians to feel better about their implicit involvement in the entrenched systems of racism, sexism and homophobia.

“Was my worship leading in these spaces just a subtler way of propagating white supremacy?” he asked.

Mark Miller

Hear Miller sing “Reign of Love,” which he co-wrote with Dan Damon, by clicking here.

Miller said he takes heart in the “Circle of Faith” theme.

“We will continue to draw the circle of our communities wide, for wide is the welcome of God’s powerful and eternally expansive love,” he said. “As we look back and celebrate the past, our worship life and educational resources need to connect the historic inequalities of our country with the complicity of the church.”

One of the APCE conference’s plenary speakers and preachers, the Rev. Dr. Rodger Nishioka, also wrote about the conference theme in his essay, “God Loves Circles.” Talking about how God’s circle is not static, the words of Canadian Anglican Bishop Gordon Light expressed this beautifully, Nishioka said, in “Draw the Circle Wide,” for which Miller composed the music:

“God the still point of the circle. ‘round whom all Creation turns.

Nothing lost but held forever in God’s gracious arms.

Draw the circle wide. Draw it wider still.

Let this be our song no one stands alone.

Standing side by side, draw the circle wide!”

 APCE has received 500 in-person and 200 online component registrants for “Circle of  Faith.” Find out what’s available online and then click here to register.

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