More than 25 years ago I was introduced to APCE (Association of Presbyterian Church Educators) when Gay Mothershed, a former Grace Presbytery associate executive, asked me to serve on the local committee for the conference that would be held at the DFW airport hotel.  Frankly, it was a terrible place for the conference, but creating an indoor garden in the vendor marketplace with other educators got me involved and the workshops and plenaries I have attended ever since have enriched my ministry.

Serving as co-chair with Catherine Foster (former First Presbyterian, Dallas Lily Resident) was a two-year labor of love. We worked with an amazing team that utilized one others’ gifts and brought together leadership to nourish and challenge us. Considering the Little Rock location and our passions, we knew the theme needed to be “Getting Outside the Box: Discipleship Through Retreat, Mission, and Justice Ministries.”

The result was over 650 Christian Educators, Pastors, and Lay Leaders gathered outside the box of the church exploring discipleship and Luke 10, as we:

  • listened to “Little Rock Nine” member Elizabeth Eckford recount stories of trauma being on the front line of school desegregation, with an additional 600 Little Rock Community members in attendance.
  • worshiped in a ballroom with silk banners 30 feet tall, watching live painting by a Sanctified Art artist and singing with David LaMotte.
  • heard Theresa Cho us to ask, “what holds you back from offering true welcome?”
  • toured Heifer International Headquarters.
  • observed the Nature Preschool at Ferncliff Camp.
  • inspected and packed Presbyterian Disaster Assistance hygiene kits.
  • listened to Lisa Sharon Harper challenge us saying “It is not possible to love Jesus and be okay with inequity.”
  • viewed the PDA documentary on Flint Michigan.
  • participated in workshops to help us provide meaning faith formation opportunities.
  • gathered around table for food and conversation.

This year Grace Presbytery had over 40 participants. Nearly half were involved in leadership in some way – whether serving on a ministry team, in the marketplace, as a sponsoring organization, “outside the box” video submissions, as award recipients – or as our newly installed president, Julia Boyce. We also had several first-time attendees. Thanks to the presbytery for financial support to help underwrite worship leadership and provide scholarships for local educators to attend. 

Videos of worship and plenary as well as printed resources from workshops and worship are available for download via the APCE website. You can also read more about the 2020 conference on Presbyterian Outlook.

Mitta Wilson serves as Children’s Ministry Director for First Presbyterian Church, Dallas, Texas.