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Where do ‘the least of these’ go unseen in the educational system?

 

Oct. 20 online event is designed to engage the church around the intersection of Matthew 25 and education

by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service

Tracy D. Dace (Photo by Angela Stevens.)

LOUISVILLE – The online Matthew 25 program series continues on Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. EDT with an unprecedented opportunity for attendees to connect with church leaders around the issue of education in the light of the denomination’s commitment to Matthew 25.

During a year like no other when students and teachers alike were confined to mainly remote learning, students of color were disproportionately impacted, shining a light on the systemic inequities long present in the U.S. educational system.

“We are called to declare the good news of the gospel with those who are marginalized by oppressive systems and unfair and unjust practices, laid bare by COVID-19,” said the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA). “High-quality education should be available to all, however educational systems often reflect the lack of equity and access towards those who sit at the margins of society, the ‘least of these.’”

The Rev. Dr. Rebecca L. Davis (Provided photo.)

The hourlong online event, moderated by Bryce Wiebe, the PMA’s director of Special Offerings, will feature three experts in the field of church education: the Rev. Dr. Rebecca L. Davis, associate professor of Christian Education at Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Charlotte (North Carolina) campus; Tracy D. Dace, founder and executive director of DREAAM (Driven to Reach Excellence & Academic Achievement for Males), Champaign, Illinois; and the Rev. Dave Brown, honorably retired pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, Washington. Each will share a story that illustrates why PC(USA) congregations should care deeply about education.

Moffett, who will open the program with prayer, will also offer a story from her own extensive experience and speak to the intersection of education and Matthew 25.

“Education is a key factor in helping eradicate systemic poverty and dismantling structural racism, which constitute two of the three Matthew 25 foci, the third being building congregational vitality,” said Moffett.  “I celebrate those who have joined and pray that all of us will consider the biblically, theologically and ecclesially based Matthew 25 movement.”  

The Rev. Dave Brown (Provided photo. )

The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson  (Photo by Rich Copley)

At the end of the hour, PMA staff consultants, the Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson, coordinator of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People at the PMA and staff person for the PC(USA)’s Educate a Child, Transform the World initiative, and the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the PMA’s Office of Public Witness, will facilitate a conversation among all three presenters.

To register for the Oct. 20 Matthew 25 event, click here.

The program’s three guest presenters represent a wealth of congregational, community, educational and academic experience.

Davis is a minister of Word and Sacrament and a certified Christian educator in the PC(USA). Before moving to full-time academic teaching at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, she served in congregations and on presbytery staff. She now teaches those preparing for leadership and advocacy in church and world. Her passion for child advocacy led her to serve as staff at the Children’s Defense Fund and the National Council of Churches Committee for Justice for Children and their Families. She was the organizing chair of the Presbyterian Child Advocacy Network and now serves on the Advisory Council for the Educate a Child Initiative and the National Committee for the Self Development of People. Davis was named the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) 2018 ENRICH Educator of the Year. Her current project is Liberating Sunday School – creating a paradigm of possibility through Freedom Church School curriculum. 

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins (Provided photo.)

Dace is a member of First Presbyterian Church of Champaign, Illinois. He has worked in nonprofit organizations and served as an adjunct professor at Parkland Community College. His organization, DREAAM, is a partner of the PC(USA)’s Educate a Child Initiative, which was launched at the 2016 General Assembly.

Brown, a member of the “Educate a Child” Roundtable and one of the authors of the denomination’s 2010 policy statement on public education, recently retired as pastor/head of staff at Immanuel Presbyterian in Tacoma, Washington. A poet and writer, Brown currently writes a monthly poetry column, Resetting the Inner Compass, for Justice Unbound, a PC(USA) web magazine. He is also the creator and founder of Blues Vespers in Tacoma.

The Matthew 25 vision was launched in April 2019. Currently, there are 895 churches, 50 groups — representing approximately 4,815 people — 10 synods and 70 presbyteries that have made the commitment to Matthew 25. That translates into 10% of congregations, 63% of synods and 42% of presbyteries. Under that mid council umbrella, there are 8,606 congregations.

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To register for the Oct. 20 Matthew 25 event, click here.


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