Let Us Play: APCE 2013

Written by Adrienne A. Trevathan, Evanston Northminster Presbyterian Church

This year’s gathering of APCE (Association of Presbyterian Church Educators) won’t be one that those of us who had the privilege of attending will easily forget. This year’s theme was simple, yet intriguing: “Play.” For three days, we explored the theology and practice of what it means to “play”–not only as educators—but disciples. What stands out to me as I reflect on this conference is the level of intentionality and detail in every aspect of the event. The worship services modeled an invitation to play by emphasizing inclusive liturgy for all ages, encouraging artistic expression as an act of praise, affirming the varied ministries made possible by our collective gifts, giving voice to many stories from young and old, and even inviting participants to write their own hymn verses to be used in worship.

What does a conference with 600 educators look like? We were given the opportunity to learn about a wildlife rescue center, see traditional Latin American dancers, launch model rockets into space at the NASA discovery station, experience Korean games firsthand, learn from our Creek brothers and sisters, see a gospel praise mime ministry, and hear about ways to address hunger – and this was during the opening night alone.

As the week continued, it was clear that the workshops were all about play, but each also had a depth that went beyond the theme. Presenters from all over the country taught about how it’s possible to “play” with Scripture in order to find new meaning, and how to create sacred space for children; how a church can engage peacemaking in new ways; why cuorisity is a response of discipleship, and how the church can claim resources that more explicitly involve our imaginations. Our worship leaders Michelle and Hugh, as well as our keynote speaker, Jaco Hamman, Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology and Culture at Vanderbilt Divinity, shared the diversity of their experiences in engaging in playfulness as an act of faithfulness. As we sat with other educators and heard pieces of our own stories being shared around us, we recognized that even the smallest details we enage in every day could actually be sacred. Could it be?

During the closing worship service, one of the worship leaders offered a reminder that also became a benediction: “Spirituality is not something that sits still; it grows in all of us.” There is a creative spirit growing within our collective work as a church. Those of us from the Chicago group who were able to attend APCE can gratefully say that we have experienced a small taste of what we are all called to: bearing witness to the growth of the creative Spirit in our midst.

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