Next week from Jan. 25-28, the Association of Partners in Christian Education will celebrate its annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. Six hundred people will gather to connect and explore this year’s theme of “Unforced Rhythms of Grace” through worship, plenaries, workshops, off-site trips, meetings and networking with peers.
Last year’s annual event brought the introduction of a hybrid conference and the official change of the organization’s name from the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators to the Association of Partners in Christian Education. This year, too, will bring new connections and news, which the Outlook will report on our website and social channels.
However, for those who simply can’t wait for Birmingham or those on the fence of whether they should attend, we’ve collected the highlights from Annual Event Co-Chairs Jami Haswell-Vandock and Mary-Todd Peters. Here’s what you need to know about APCE’s 2023 annual event.
- More hybrid workshop offerings. Online attendees will be able to join all the plenaries and worship services, as they were last year. But the number of workshops available for them to choose from has increased from one or two hybrid workshops in each workshop block to four hybrid workshops in each block.
- Spanish online conference. APCE’s annual event is accessible to Spanish speakers this year. Everything that is streamed will include live translation services. Additionally, all workshop materials have been translated in advance so that the handouts are in English and Spanish. Spanish speakers also have their own online hosts, responsible for generating conversation and community, and their own registration portal, which is fully in Spanish. Plus, due to the partnership between the PC(U.S.A.) Office of Christian Formation, PC(USA) Office of Global Language Resources, and APCE, there is no cost to participate in the hybrid conference in Spanish.
- Fully immersive online experience. For those joining virtually, there will be an online marketplace and a virtual spirituality center created by Chassidy Goggins from Columbia Theological Seminary’s Center for Lifelong Learning. Those who can’t be there in person will also have opportunities to virtually tour the Equal Justice Initiative and the Civil Rights Institute, where in-person attendees also have opportunities to visit. Anne Wilson and Thom Cunningham are also designated online hosts to facilitate community and conversation circles for specific interest groups so online attendees can network.
- Artwork by Mary Button. Conference artist Mary Button will be responsible for the stage backdrops and Spirituality Center. “She has a really provocative Stations of the Cross series, one of which will be featured in the Spirituality Center. They explore the pandemic and hope and how the pandemic also converged with police brutality and civil rights issues,” said Haswell-Vandock.
- Book signings by John Pavlovitz and William Yoo. Keynote Speaker John Pavlovitz will be signing his new book If God is Love, Don’t Be a Jerk, and William Yoo, the instructor for this year’s Certification Course on Reformed Theology at APCE, will be signing his new book What Kind of Christianity: A History of Slavery and Anti-Black Racism in the Presbyterian Church.
- Pilgrimage opportunities. Conference attendees will have opportunities to visit the Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist Church, both of which are minutes from the conference center, and the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.
- John Pavlovitz. Pastor and author John Pavlovitz is this year’s keynote speaker. “His work on grief and lament and learning to take care of ourselves in the course of taking care of other people is going to be a really important theme carrier for the whole conference,” said Haswell-Vandock.
- More amazing speakers (and worship). Beyond Pavlovitz, online and in-person attendees will hear from pastor and activist Michael W. Waters, local Episcopal priest Katie Nakamura Rengers and PC(USA) pastor CeCe Armstrong. Worship will be led by G. Philip Schultz III, the associate artistic director of VocalEssence and cantor for worship, music and the arts at Westwood Lutheran Church.
In short, there will be lots of opportunities for online and in-person attendees to connect, learn and grow. And this, after all, is the purpose of APCE.
Peters, who has been a member of APCE for 25 years put it this way: “The reason I’ve been a member for so long – even when I wasn’t officially employed by a church – is because the community means so much to me. The support, the time to gather and to grow and to learn more about my faith and spirituality, the opportunity to feel equipped to go back to my congregation and share — it’s invaluable.” And both she and Haswell-Vandock look forward to offering that opportunity for growth and connection to others.
Those interested in registering for the online conference (online registration doesn’t close) can visit here.