The Advocate is publishing a series of articles highlighting our recent APCE Award recipients, gathering words of wisdom for faith formation in these days.

This week, we hear from Debby Madden, APCE’s 2023 SUSTAIN Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.



Debby retired from First Presbyterian, Carlisle, PA, where she served as Director of Educational Ministry for 20 years. Prior to her second career as a church educator, Debby worked in accounting and banking. She is a ruling elder and Associate Certified Christian Educator and has a certification in Spiritual Formation from Columbia Seminary, Decatur, GA.

Debby served APCE and EAPCE in a variety of positions. She served the National APCE as a regional representative, chair of the APCE Advocate committee, and Treasurer. She was part of the Task Force for the new form of government. Debby also served EAPCE as Secretary, President, and Treasurer. She has created a variety of workshops and Spirituality Centers for both National and EAPCE.

She has been active in the Presbytery of Carlisle, serving on a variety of committees and task forces. She was selected as an Elder Commissioner to the 223rd General Assembly of the PC(U.S.A.) in 2018. She volunteers for her local food bank, Project SHARE, community worship walks, and First Night New Year’s Eve programs. Somewhere in all of these activities, she finds time to enjoy reading as well.

Debby received the same questions that our other recipients received. Her responses are written in article form and are included here.

Thank you, Debby, for your wisdom and insight.

  1. What gets you excited about faith formation today?
  2. What are you curious about?
  3. These last few years have been a challenge for many of us in ministry, why do you stay in it? (or if you’re retired, what kept you going through the years?)
  4. What CE/Faith formation “fad” from the past would you like to bring back?
  5. What are you currently reading/what books are on your night table?


Faith Formation and Prayer

In 2004, I finished the work and exams to be recognized as a Certified Associate Christian Educator. It was assumed by colleagues and friends that I would continue the work to be a Certified Christian Educator. I enjoyed the classes and knowledge the certification experience had given me, but I felt I was being called in a different direction.

The following spring at an EAPCE event, I heard Jim Davison speak about the Certificate in Spiritual Formation program, which at that time was being offered by Pittsburgh, Austin, and Columbia seminaries. I decided to attend the Introduction course at Columbia. After taking the class, I knew this was what I wanted to study.

I give you this introduction as my way of saying, I think much of Christianity and the world would be better served if prayer and “heart” knowledge were stressed equally with “head” knowledge.

While serving at First Presbyterian in Carlisle, PA, I began our Sunday School time with intergenerational prayer. Each week, I wrote a prayer bulletin with a short Scripture passage, a children’s song or well-known hymn, and a time to share our joys and concerns. This prayer moment gave the oldest members a chance to hear what was on the youngest members’ hearts, and it gave the children an idea of the concerns of the older generation. This intergenerational prayer time led to the creation of a faith community where in one week, a member might ask a child how his test went, and a teen might ask a senior if their spouse was feeling better.

This example is not an old fad; rather, it is one opportunity for prayer in congregations. From this small beginning, the congregation became more open to writing devotions for Advent and Lent, attending prayer meetings, going on community prayer walks, and studying the wide variety of prayer offered to all Christians.

Prayer has been the cornerstone of faith formation in my teaching, studying, preaching, and living.

Another joy for me is reading. When asked what I am currently reading, I have to admit I read many books at the same time. Each month, I try to read a classic I have missed, a memoir or biography, a religious-themed book, a social justice book, while leaving plenty of time for current novels and thrillers. I love books by Stephen King and Jürgen Moltmann. I never pass up a “Spenser” detective novel or Anne LaMott. My favorite book is a memoir called, The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer. My favorite novel is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

I would be glad to be friends with other APCE members on Goodreads. Please send a request.

In my retirement, I get to pray and read each day. What a blessing God has given to me.

Debby Madden

March 9, 2023

Author Image

Debby Madden

a retired Christian educator, is married to her wonderful husband, Dave. She is mom and stepmom to David, Kristen, Diane, Dave, and Dennis, and (best of all) grandmother to the 3M’s - Michelle, Mason, and McKenzie. She loves reading, jigsaw puzzles, and baseball, especially the Phillies.