By: Ken McFayden
Since being installed as president at the 2018 annual event, the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) has become a more central part of my life. More of my time. More of my energy. More of my focus. And during a period of my life when my plate already is full, if not overflowing, in light of my responsibilities as an academic dean at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Why would I do this? Why do I do this? Why did I say “yes” to the invitation to serve as president?
My answer to these interrelated questions is simple: APCE matters. It matters to me. It matters to you. It matters to the church. And it matters to boys and girls, women and men of all ages who want and need opportunities to grow in faith, to live with purpose, and to respond to the love of God with lives oriented to peace, justice, and service. APCE matters because growing in faith matters. Without APCE, there would be a “hole” in the church—or perhaps better imaged, a large number of emerging sinkholes that engulf so much of what the church has constructed during the past century.
Looking back, now I am aware that the mission and purpose of APCE has mattered to me for the past 40 years, beginning when I served as a camp counselor at a Presbyterian camp in North Carolina. Over these past four decades, much of my work has centered upon dynamics of formation, whether in congregational ministry, hospitality chaplaincy, a ministry development center, or a Presbyterian seminary. Yet for much of this time, I have perceived APCE as an organization for directors of Christian education in local congregations, designed to resource, support, and advocate for these educators in the life of the church. As such, I never considered joining APCE or attending an annual or regional event.
How did this change? I was invited. Someone—actually someone with a name, Candace Hill—invited me. She invited me to be a presenter. She invited me to join. And I accepted her invitations.
My first annual event, to which I was invited, was in San Jose in 2014. At that meeting, a new organizational structure was introduced during a business meeting. This new structure was designed to invited more people—including new people—to participate in APCE. I found this structural shift enticing. This shift would build upon APCE’s values that are central to its mission—connect, enrich, empower, sustain. And yet, I wondered about the vision that was sparking this organizational change as APCE looked into its future.
I met APCE’s president and past-president at that time. I expressed interest in this new organizational model and my curiosity about its vision for the future. I was invited to apply to become a member of a ministry team. I accepted this invitation and applied to serve on the Governance Ministry Team. After a few years of service, I became president. I never could have imagined during my flight to San Jose that I would be composing this note to you.
I am curious. How is APCE a part of your life? In what ways do you invest your time? Your energy? Your focus? I imagine your response may be similar to mine: APCE matters, because growing in faith matters. And without APCE, your life and the life of the church would….
I hope that the doorway for you into APCE came in the form of an invitation. An invitation by someone with a name. A name you remember and appreciate.
I hope you are paying it forward by inviting others to be a part of APCE in some way. Perhaps to an annual event. Perhaps to a regional or sub-regional event. Perhaps by serving on a ministry team. After all, people like (and need) to be invited.
A final thought, as I bring this first of a two-part conversation to a close. APCE is not an organization although we generally think it is. APCE is a constellation of people with a wealth of gifts, passions, callings, and experiences who come together in different events and structures. As such, we join and serve a constellation of people who organize for important, life-giving work.
Why APCE? I hope my thoughts stimulate your thoughts, and that this conversation stirs conversations for you with those about whom you care.
Ken McFayden is the 2018 President of APCE. He is author of Strategic Leadership for a Change: Facing Our Losses, Finding Our Future (2009), and a contributor to the Being Reformed curriculum on Transformational Leaders. You can contact him at [email protected].