Awesome article from Sybil Macbeth!

About seven years ago, Memphis Theological Seminary asked me to be their “artist-in-residence” for the year. Their ironic invitation made me laugh out loud. I am a third-generation Sybil; my mother and grandmother, for whom I am named, were fine artists–oil painters and sculptors. For me visual art has always been a source of deep shame. With my maternal legacy of name and genes, I should be able to draw and paint. The reality is I cannot draw a dog or a cat or anything else for that matter; I never earned more than a C in an art class. But for the past ten years art has formed the cornerstone of my ministry.

My foray into visual arts ministry began with my own desperation. More than a dozen years ago, a dozen friends and family members were diagnosed with an array of nasty cancers. My prayers for them were puny, inadequate one-liners. “Please, God, let Sue live to see her children graduate from high school.” “Keep Peter free from pain.” “Heal Chuck.” I am a lover of words, but when I needed them most they failed me.

Although I cannot paint or draw, I love to doodle. Letting a pen and colored markers take me for a walk across a piece of paper and form abstract shapes feels safe because it doesn’t have to look like anything. One day I was doodling on my back porch and I noticed I had written the name Sue in one of the doodles. Sue was my sister-in-law with stage-four lung cancer. As I continued to draw, add color, and focus on her name, I realized I was praying for her. Each stroke of color, each line and dot was a wordless prayer, offering and releasing her into God’s care. More doodles with more names showed up on the page. The result was a visual prayer list that prompted me to pray for my friends every time I looked at it.

I called my new way to pray praying in color. What started as an intercessory prayer form gradually expanded into a way to pray my thanksgivings, confessions, petitions, adoration, and even scripture—a visual form of lectio divina. Ten years ago I wrote a book about praying in color and began to lead workshops and retreats. I morphed from a community college math professor into an accidental Christian educator. Besides doodling our prayers in my workshop, we sing, write, and dance. I morphed from a visual art-phobic person into an educator who uses many forms of art to explore new ways to pray.

Leading workshops only about prayer is a luxury most Christian educators do not have. I do not have to enter into the tumultuous waters of teaching or crafting programs about doctrine, tradition, and Scripture. Prayer seems to bypass the territorial details and beliefs of a particular denomination or faith tradition.

But after leading dozens of workshops, I understand that my job is not just teaching this particular way to pray but it is to help people find their own way to pray. As a Christian educator my job is to give people some essential tools and instructions, but also to provide a torch and a permission slip to explore uncharted ways to be in relationship with God.

Christian educators are not just teachers, organizers, and program builders but limners. A limner is a person who illuminates a manuscript, who paints and draws. I like the idea that a limner is someone who illuminates the way with painting and drawing as well as with all kinds of visual arts, song, dance, poetry, play, and imagination. Christian educators have a tough job as both instructors and illuminators. They engage our left-brains where we process the rational information, tenets, and stories of the faith. And they also challenge our right-brains to enter into the sometimes scary, untamed artistic part of ourselves and play with the information in a new way.

Jesus was a limner. He told his story and the story of God in pictures and images. “I am the door; I am the gate; I am the way; I am the bread of life….” These images do not say, “That’s it, end of sentence. Period.” Instead Jesus’ words are an invitation to enter the story and to imagine. They send out fireworks and illumine Jesus himself.  What makes Jesus so compelling and maybe even dangerous is his mysterious, right-brained invitation to know him and God in unpredictable and surprising ways.

ENRICH – Educator of the Year Laurie Farquharson

Image result for Laurie Farquharson

Laurie Farquharson loves her ministry as the long-time (27 years) Director of Christian Education at Wekiva Presbyterian Church PC(USA) in Longwood, FL.  Laurie was a “home-grown” educator, receiving a call to ministry in her own local church after a short career in elementary education and years of church volunteer work.

She began as a cradle Presbyterian with a good liberal arts education (a B. A. in English Literature with a minor in Elementary Education) from Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia. After answering God’s call to educational ministry with fear and trepidation she loved taking educator certification courses at Princeton Seminary, Columbia Seminary and Union-PSCE and continues to treasure every opportunity to learn and grow as a Christian educator.

Her areas of responsibility at Wekiva have adjusted as the church had need over the years but now include children’s ministry, adult educational ministry, and Stephen Ministry (lay caregiving). She is the staff liaison/permanent Board member for the church’s large traditional preschool program, does their chapel weekly, and teaches at least three Presbyterian Women Circles each month.

She is an active member of APCE (Association of Presbyterian Church Educators) and is most excited and very humbled to be named the 2017 APCE Educator of the Year.  She is just completing her first term on the APCE Administrative Ministry Team.

Laurie has also served in a variety of ways for Central Florida Presbytery and the PC(USA)—from Committee on Ministry member to G.A. 221 Commissioner—and is currently the Chairperson of the Leadership Development Committee, on the Presbytery Council, and is a reader for ordination exams.

As a widow with two beloved grandchildren and one dearly-loved son, Laurie enjoys trying out new recipes, watches way too much TV, loves being surrounded by books and feels most at home learning and teaching—especially about theology, Scripture, and the Christian life.

Laurie Farquharson

ENRICH – Educator of the Year

A New Year’s Prayer for Christian Educators and Pastors


God of new life,
We give you thanks for this day: the first in a new year of life and faith.

If we have learned from the lesson of years past,
We can guess what this year might hold.
There will be joy, and there will be heartbreak.
There will be mistakes, and there will be achievements.
There will be hands to hold, tears to dry, stories to tell, and grace to receive.
Do not let us miss it, God.

Open our eyes, that we might recognize your presence around us.
Open our ears, that we might hear your voice in the words of our neighbor.
Open our hearts, that we might feel the depth of your love for this world.
Open our minds, that we might discover more of who you are.

On this day of New Year’s resolutions,
Forgive us the promises we make and do not keep.
Remind us of the eternal promises spoken at our baptisms:
You are our God, and we are your beloved.

When we look back upon this year,
May we remember more than the services we planned,
The lessons we taught,
Or the to-do lists we tackled.
May we remember the glimpses of your reign:
The holy moments when you broke in around us,
And filled our lives with your grace.

God of this new year,
Do not let us miss it.


Rev. Anna George Traynham is a graduate of Union Presbyterian Seminary (’14) and Presbyterian College (’11). She currently serves as an Associate Pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. You can read more of her writing at her blog And also with you. 

Presidents Note

by Von ClemansVon Clemans

Teachable Moments

I live in Charlotte. Last week, on the national news and social media, we became another in a long list of cities which have experienced a violent death, protests, and even riots. Some of you know what we’ve been through. One of the images that will stick with me is a line of Charlotte’s faith leaders, from many faith traditions, standing arm in arm between the protesters and the police trying to be a buffer to keep the protests non-violent.

If your setting is like mine there are many different opinions on how or even if to respond to these public events. Typically, pastors may speak from pulpits to bring a witness of our faith tradition to our public lives. I am ordained as a pastor, but my vocation, my call is to lead in educational ministry. So I want to speak to educators, those on multiple staff teams to be sure, but even more to part-time and volunteer educators serving in smaller congregations across North America.

Use these terrible events as teachable moments. Bring the rich traditions of our reformed faith to life by connecting what is happening in the news with what we believe. Look to your confessional statements that address racial and societal injustice. Look to denominational statements released at times like this.  Look to prayers and devotions for times of local and national crisis. Look to resources and studies to help your folks understand a bigger picture.  Look to the Bible and its relentless call to justice and righteousness. Look to Jesus the Christ who models the compassion of God and God’s inclusion of those we would reject. Look and find and share.

If yours is a lone voice, connect with other educators in your area.  Cross denominational and even interfaith lines to find a support system for your efforts. Help your people — children, youth, and adults — prepare for the realities of the world we live in.

Sometimes you have to stand, arm in arm, between opposing forces to be a faith-based buffer when chaos erupts.  But don’t wait for the chaos. Engage in the daily, weekly, ongoing task of forming a people who are shaped by the God of grace, compassion, non-violence, and love. Then, when you are facing the chaos, they will have your back.

2017 Annual Event *God With Us in the Chaos*

Denver Marriott Tech Center

4900 S. Syracuse Street

Denver, Colorado 80237

The 2017 Annual Event theme is “God With Us in the Chaos” promises to restore your spirit and re-energize you for ministry. In Denver, you will find:

  • 6 Wednesday workshops (at no extra charge!)

  • 4 challenging plenaries with 4 different leaders

  • 5 pre-event options

  • 8 PYWA workshops specifically for youth workers

  • 4 engaging and creative worships

  • 500 gifts of the heart kits being packed in a group mission project

  • 2 concerts

  • 3+ book signings

  • 4 extended off-site workshops (9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.!)

  • 1 amazing, interactive Spirituality Center with stations that change with the daily sub themes

  • Natural surroundings that support the theme

  • And hands-on mission workshops you won’t want to miss!

The conference will take place at the Denver Marriott Tech Center, which is undergoing a full transformation, scheduled to be complete this fall. With warm colors and artwork indicative of Colorado, guest rooms and meeting spaces are inviting and restorative. The entire renovated hotel has been reserved for the APCE community for this event.

The Annual Event team and the Denver local committee have been working diligently to creatively design this Annual Event to inspire you and refresh your spirit and to connect, enrich, empower, and sustain you in your ministry. Come to Denver January 25-28, 2017 and experience “God With Us in the Chaos”!

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance,

Julie Gvillo and Barbi Smith

2017 Annual Event Co-chairs

A Message from the President ~ Written by Von Clemans, APCE President

In his classic book The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says, “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”

Our calling as educators can lead us at times to focus on increasing the intelligence of those in our pews and classrooms. We also focus on building their gifts. But if the result is only surface change, we have missed out on the challenge to nurture the transformation of people at a deep and profound level—where God’s Spirit is shaping disciples to reshape the world.

In APCE’s 2015 annual event in Baltimore we proclaimed, Fear Not! This year in Chicago we proclaimed that God is doing a New Thing, See It, Hear It, Live It. Is this not the journey into deeper discipleship—leaving our fear behind and then putting our faith into action?

The current series of Advocate articles focus on spiritual practices–but not because we need another thing to do. We focus on spiritual practices because centuries of life as God’s people have shown that it takes practice and discipline to develop, in ourselves and in others, the deeper discipleship that makes deep people.

It will take deep people to address the challenges all around us–the decline of Christendom, changes in funding patterns for churches and religious organizations, the deterioration of the role of educator, popular culture that has little need for religion, political culture that forsakes the common good, not to mention global threats to human life. We are called to join in God’s work of bringing in the kingdom of God. God is with us, so we will not fear. God is already at work among us and bids us join in.

The spiritual practices of the church can help us develop the depth we need to see and hear God’s work and the courage to live it. So make use of them. Make them part of your inner life. God will use you in the transformation of your people and the world.


By Von Clemans on Apr 03, 2016 06:00 pm