Ministries News/Info Resources Spiritual Life

2024 APCE Conference Reflections

In April 2024, the Ecumenical Educators met and discussed what they learned at the 2024 APCE Conference which happened in January. Below is a summary of resources discussed as well as a recording of the April meeting.

Watch a recording of the meeting:

John Pavlovitz (keynoter for that event) has released his most recent book:

  • Worth Fighting For
  • Visit his website, which includes links to all of his books, here
  • Several Raleigh area Moravians attended his recent book launch, as John is local to the triangle-area. A noteworthy shout-out to Moravians was shared during the Q&A session when someone asked, “Is there a faith community that you really feel like you identify with and that you would encourage people to surround themselves with?” Pavlovitz specifically looked at the row of Moravians [at the event] and said, ”Those are some people to talk to.”
  • Raleigh Moravian has plans to do a study on this latest book after a positive experience with another of Pavlovitz’s titles last year. More coming on an event with Pavlovitz connected to that upcoming study.

Alan Bosch (College Hill):

  • Workshops & Keynoters all highlighted an overall theme of the importance of building relationships, particularly intergenerational relationships within the church – to grow and create a feeling of real belonging particularly with the kids
  • Sacred Art Time – An Alternative Children’s Christian Education Model: (view complete presentation slides for this workshop via link)
  • This demonstrated an integrated Sunday School and Worship approach – using elements, including reading from a Children’s Bible, that began in the main Sanctuary with the whole congregation and then transitioned into intentional children’s learning time when children were dismissed into a Sunday School space to continue going deeper with the focal story for the day through questions and an art-based response
  • The relational take-away has encouraged College1qaz Hill to revive a prayer partner program that had become dormant (although it had once been very successful).

Jami Vandock (Raleigh) and Real Kids, Real Faith Workshop:

  • *special note: Jami/Raleigh has been active in a pilot group for this project and she’s happy to share about this.
  • The hub via the link above is the site funded by a Lily Grant to provide spiritual connections for families on a variety of topics and connections to children’s literature, movies, etc. This hub is a continually evolving database that is a great place to find options for engagements that parents or church events can use to connect faith and life for preschooler to teens. This is an amazing and completely FREE resource!
  • Embodied Prayers
    • Using body and movement as a way of praying, noting the importance of 4 quadrants of focus in them – self, others, the world, and God, these are great ways to incorporate thoughtful prayer practice with even very young children (which can be deeply meaningful to all ages). Seated and standing versions are offered.
  • Embodied Meditation
  • Holy Listening
    • one on one practice
    • uses story stones and simple storytelling prompts to invite a child sharing with an adult and receiving a simple blessing (chapstick to the back of the hand and simple words of affirmation)
    • a reflective spiritual practice for even the youngest children
  • Note – preparing and training the adults in a congregation to become participants in sign language or simple movement prayers is a helpful first step to incorporating some of these practices into congregational life
  • A takeaway: “We have done our children a disservice if we always make God and the emotions of God serious – never being seen with any levity or that God celebrates and God is happy. … Don’t make God so serious that kids can’t laugh with God, kids can’t express happiness in prayer.”
  • Time with Children 101: The Hows, Whys, and for Whoms (Carol Wehrheim)
    • Carol keyed into the themes and storytelling scripts from her series Feasting on the Word: Children’s Sermons for Year A, B, and C (three book series) 
    • Throughout this session Carol highlighted the importance of telling the Bible story – simply, accessibly, in straightforward and engaging ways, as often as possible. Striping away extras and props and object lessons – and instead opting for a face to face storytelling mode where the story is told by a storyteller and children (and everyone) are invited into exploring the story
  • Book Highlight: A is for Alabaster, Anna Carter Florence
    • offers 52 short reflections (2-3 pages) with an A-Z from the Old Testament and A-Z from the New Testament

Kim Row (Guilford Park Presbyterian):

  • Upcoming Trends Workshops –
    • Noted that US and Canadian studies seemed to be at odds, but that Canadian trends over the past 20 years have typically tracked ahead of US trends… if this holds true, the US would follow Canadian trends in 5-7 years – looking for parents to be more engaged in a desire to bring active faith practice and inquiry into their homes and daily lives
    • See Innovation Slides link (US Study)
    • Parenting for Faith Key Findings (Canadian Study)

Beth Hayes (Come & Worship):

  • Quick Tip – doing APCE annual event as a virtual attendee, but turning it into a watch party for a small group for follow up discussion and interaction built off the keynotes, worship, and hybrid workshop options… She expressed deep appreciation for how effective she found that mode of experiencing the event to be.
  • Fresh Elastic for Stretched-out Educators – was a panel workshop with several veteran educators fielding Q&A in the room
  • Don Griggs – Axioms for Teaching in the Church: 12 Affirmations & Reflections

Joyce Vance (Raleigh):

Carolyn Menapace (Dover First):

  • Quenching Spiritual Thirst of Your Congregation – focused on creating Spiritual Center experiences for congregations… (Margaret Norris also attended – may have notes from this to share…)

Margaret Norris (Hope)

  • Attended “Creating a Spirituality Center (also called: Sacred Space or Prayer Stations)” led by Rev. Erika Funk, Director of CROSS missions at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. CROSS is a service and justice experience for youth and young adults.
  • General Thoughts:
    • Any space can be made into a space where one can access God’s presence more easily
    • All space is sacred because God is already there
    • We sometimes need to go to certain lengths to be present with God.
    • Kinesthetic ways of connecting with God can offer us a “side door” of connection
      • Example: leader was affected by a time during a service being: plates and big sledge hammers; confessing sins; asking for forgiveness and smashing a plate
    • If one is anxious or mind-busy; being able to make world smaller for a bit can be helpful for God-connection
  • Suggested considerations:
    • Parameters: make accessible to all–small people, differently-abled….
    • Engaging for mind of ages 5-75
    • Can be there for a Sunday or a season
    • Have a candle (can be battery operated) at every station
    • Should always start w scripture
    • Tie to worship element (lament, gratitude, etc.)
    • Provide room for people to interpret, while also making instructions clear
    • If get stuck on mechanics of it…wheel it back: what is prayer station supposed to be about?
  • Examples:
    • Remembering baptism: participants put hand in moving water; remembering baptism; when participants interact with water they may splash, notice droplets…also streams turn to rivers…does one want to be making a splash or a stream?
    • “Justice rolling down like rivers…like an ever-flowing stream:” Hydrological USA map with all rivers; have participants write prayers on transparent post it notes, place on map
    • Black and White rainbow:
      • Remembering God’s covenant with us; remember all that God has done;
      • Take transparent heart (stickers available in all colors) and write name of someone meaningful in our faith formation; add to rainbow
    • Floor labyrinth made out of drop cloth canvas; can have stations along the way; can have offerings of scripture along the path
    • 2 rocking chairs, iridescent fabric; put twinkly lights under :water” cloth; come and sit by the waters;
    • “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us:” have a tray of sand; participants can put a battery-powered candle in sand for someone they find hard to get along with; focus on another’s candle to pray for someone else’s “person”
    • Have a Prayer wall that participants can fill with Post-it notes
    • Use Scrabble letters for participants to build prayers with letters
    • Umbrella hanging upside-down from ceiling: God is my refuge and strength/protection: write and attach Post-it Note reminders of how God is refuge
    • Put stone in shoe—reminder of walking with Jesus
    • “Cast your anxieties on God:” A Comfortable chair: provide masking tape for people to write on and tape on the chair
  • Resources:
    • Greenbelt Festival–Christian music arts and justice festival August
    • Theresa Cho: is queen of these; lots of idea on website and blog
    • Charlotte, NC:

Christy Clore (CCD/Faith Formation):

  • Overall Reflection – What if what we actually want from church is for it to be a place of relationship, to be a place where we are studying and equipping ourselves to be disciples who are acting as God’s hands and feet in the world…
  • Elephants, Ostriches, and Cows, Oh My!
    • Link to slides
    • Link to resource page
    • Naming our fears and anxiety allows us to address the struggle rather than allowing it to grow even larger
    • In Dr Root’s (When Church Stops Working) analysis, “Only in dying can the Church find its way beyond the crisis of decline, which is a fake crisis, and into the crisis of God’s action in the world. . .The good death is the one that brings us into humility.”
    • One takeaway experience – Invite folks to choose one thing that has you most anxious about your church… then actually facilitate a conversation with a wide group of people having identified that one thing, discussing why does that thing concern you?, and then to really be able to address it and move past it rather than just not talking about it
    • These avoidance tactics (keeping elephants, sacred cows, and ostriches unaddressed) are getting in the way of healthy relationships
    • Another takeaway – We actually do have time to wait, we can have some patience, because the church is one of the longest lasting institutions in the world — so yes things are changing, and we might feel a little bit unstable, but that’s okay. Just kind of lean into that, embrace it, let yourself feel like that, and just have patience.
  • Mark Yaconelli – Between the Listening and the Telling
    • Keynoter – highlighted the importance of listening to and telling our stories – both our personal stories but also connecting our stories to our faith’s narrative in scripture
  • Godly Play Foundation & Everyday Godly Play Initiative