Michelle Thomas-Bush reflected on her past practice of being a “power vacationer” when she would run from activity to activity as a “consumer of play.” The conference worship leader, an associate pastor and director of Christian education at Myers Park Church in Charlotte, N.C., said she was less a participator than a controller of what she was doing.
In recent years, she has turned over a new leaf. “Play calls us out of our schedules, it calls us out of our obsessions to a place where we can be present with God, and not where we can control or think we can control God,” she reflected.
In the process, she now finds herself giving praise to God “just for what we experience and feel and know, not because we have orchestrated it, planned it, prayed for it to be what we wanted – not for what we desire.” Ultimately, she said, “we give God praise just for being God.”
Keynote speaker Jaco Hamman reminded the participants that play is one of the first behaviors a child learns to do. It is instinctive. However, it’s also a skill that often diminishes as we grow older. Hamman, the director of the Program in Theology and Practice and associate profess of religion, psychology and culture at the Vanderbilt Divinity School is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America. He’s also author of “A Play-full Life: Slowing Down and Seeking Peace” and the only theologian member of the National Institute for Play.
To be playful, he said, we all need to:
minimize criticism and practice realness,
minimize control and practice creativity,
minimize competition and practice boundlessness,
minimize compulsion and practice slowness,
minimize conflict and practice hospitality,
minimize consumption and practice transcendence.
He added that creativity is one of the easiest things to cultivate in this life. “All you do is to spend time with other people who are more creative than you are,” he advised. “Their creativity will rub off onto you.”
Participants in the conference participated in more than 70 breakout sessions, ranging from “Serious Fun” to “Playing with Parables,” from “Recreology” to “Re-creating Youth Ministry,” from “Peacemaking and Play,” to “’Toto, We’re not in Kansas Anymore.’”
Participants also rose in honor of annual awards recipients. David Hoonjin Chai was honored as the APCE Christian Educator of the Year. Presently serving as stated supply pastor of the Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Denver, Chai is considered a pioneer of Christian education in Asian American congregations. He has promoted leadership development among Korean American immigrant churches by creating programs and conferences, establishing the Young Adult Leadership Coalition, Korean American Student Empowerment, and the National Korean Presbyterian Youth Council. He also has been instrumental in launching Roots and Wings, a Taiwanese young adult conference, the Filipino American Young Adult Conference Ministry and the Confluence Institute (resourcing for church leadership), earlier known as the Educational Ministry Team.
In his acceptance speech, he emphasized two themes that long have defined much of his ministry: leadership and followership. “Jesus’ calling ‘Come, follow me’ is the followership, ‘I’ll make you fishers of men’ is the leadership,” he told the audience. “If the first part is what we have to do, the second part is what Jesus promises he will do through us for the others.”
APCE also presented lifetime achievement awards to retired educator Mary Emery Speedy and to retired pastor-educator Tom Malone.