11 practical resource books from APCE 2017

Student Linda Kurtz at the APCE conference with her classmates Rosy Robson, Caitlin Hahn, Alexa Allmann, Annie Franklin, Marcy Wright, Amanda Kathryn Hill; alumni director Clay Macaulay; and PSCE alumna Pam Macaulay.


M.A.C.E./M.Div. student Linda Kurtz shares her reflections on attending the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) 2017 Annual Event in Denver, Colorado.

If nothing else, I am a practical person. I love practical resources. Don’t get me wrong – theory has its place. But one of the things I appreciated about the APCE Annual Event is that I walked away with some practical resources. Chief among those were books. The content of nearly all of the workshops I attended was grounded in books. And books peppered other aspects of the conference as well, from a testimony by PC(USA) co-moderator Denise Anderson to keynote presentations by Nadia Bolz-Weber and others. Granted, I don’t have a lot of time to read books other than those assigned for my classes… But I will one day, right?

Here, then, is my APCE booklist:

The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood by Susan Engel

The first workshop I attended was led by Dr. Karen-Marie Yust, our Christian education professor at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Her workshop, “Cultivating Curious Christians,” was based on the research of this book, which seeks to discover how curiosity relates to teaching and learning. This book sounds like a great resource for any educator – Christian or otherwise – looking to engage and cultivate curious minds in children. I took tons of notes during Dr. Yust’s workshop and look forward to reading this book to get more insight on curiosity and what encourages and discourages it.

Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

PC(USA) co-moderators Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston have challenged the entire denomination via their “One Church, One Book” project to read “Waking Up White” in an effort to begin a greater conversation about race. This is the first of two books on this that I’ve purchased and haven’t read… but fully intend to! Denise and Jan did a six-part video series for the Office of the General Assembly about the book and their challenge – check it out!

The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine

The second workshop I attended was led by UPSem alumna Kate Fiedler and her colleague Nancy Myer from University Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Their workshop examined “The Price of Privilege” through the lens of faith, and after learning more about the book, we spent much of our time together discussing how the church can and should respond to mental health issues among its youth. The book itself explores how socio-economically privileged adolescents are experiencing high rates of emotional problems mental health issues. Kate and Nancy argued that we as the church are called to accept our young people as they are, cultivate their interests, and encourage them to be good and productive people – our goal being for them to grow up grace-filled and healthy. This book sounds like an important resource for anyone in ministry, and it’s now on my book list!

Other books Kate recommended on the topic:

Worldchanging 101: Challenging the Myth of Powerlessness by David LaMotte

David was present throughout the APCE Annual Event, and while he didn’t lead a plenary session, his book “Worldchanging 101” was for sale at the bookstore. In it, he asks what makes us able to identify problems in our world but feel so paralyzed when it comes to addressing them. I’ve been meaning to read the book for months. In fact, when UPSem admissions director Mairi Renwick and I led a workshop on discernment at College Conference Montreat in January, I cited it more than once… even though I haven’t read it! There’s nothing quite like the instant gratification of buying a book and having it immediately in-hand, so I’m glad to have this book on my bookshelf.

A New Religious America by Diana Eck

The final workshop I attended was “Interfaith Community Education: Talking with Neighbors” led by Jody McDevitt, co-pastor of First Presbyterian in Bozeman, Montana. We spent much of our time learning about the interfaith community education model Jody uses in Bozeman alongside a local rabbi, Muslim scholar, and Catholic priest. Jody said that this book, written just before September 11, 2001, was the catalyst for her interest in interfaith dialogue, as it makes the case for religious pluralism in America. While the book is now dated, it’s now on my list of books to read, especially as I see interfaith dialogue as part of my ministry wherever I wind up when I graduate from UPSem.

Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding by Gustav Niebuhr

Jody also recommended this book in her workshop for its argument for interfaith dialogue. Written in 2008, it’s a bit more contemporary than “A New Religious America.” The book details the spectrum we lie on when it comes to interfaith relations: according to Niebuhr, we feel anywhere from antipathy to tolerance to friendship and respect for other faiths. As the title indicates, Niebuhr makes the case for moving beyond tolerance into friendship and respect. This book sounds like a good resource for educating congregations on the importance of engaging neighbors of other religions.

The Interreligious Stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

This document was prepared by the 221st General Assembly in 2014 and is the first detailed interpretation of the PC(USA)’s position on other religions and interfaith work. The current moderator of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, which wrote the document, was a participant in this workshop as well. It’s a great guide not only for national policy but also for people on a local level.

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber

This is Nadia’s most recent book (though she told us in her keynote that she’s working on another!) about the unlikely people through whom she’s encountered God. I’ve read it, and highly recommend it! It’s full of great stories about people – people we tend to judge by appearance – and challenges us to consider if the person we’re trying to avoid might be our best chance at grace. It’s a great reminder of what real Christian community can and should be like.