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Fall 2001 Newsletter

In This Issue
Spiritual Journey & Our Communities of Faith
Planning Begins for Children's Spiritual Development and Formation Conference
"Christian Educators of the 20th Century" Project Receives Funding from Lilly
In Memoriam: Bill O'Byrne, Jonathan Thigpen
Research Presentations
Book Reviews  

NAPCE 2001: Spiritual Journey & Our Communities of Faith
Conference Preview and Registration Information

The theme of the annual NAPCE conference for the year 2001 is: Spiritual Journey and our Communities of Faith. The conference will be held in Arlington Park near Chicago, October 25-27, 2001. NAPCE Vice President Mark Senter has prepared a conference designed to focus on the richness of the spiritual journey found in diverse expressions of the Body of Christ and explore the implications of this for personal and corporate growth.

Registration for the conference is now underway. Please refer to the conference webpage for more details about registration and schedule. Note, especially, that discounted airfare is available through United Airlines specialized meeting Reservation Center, at 1-800-521-4041. Mention the NAPCE conference (meeting ID number 593XG) to receive information on the best available fares.

NAPCE members seeking roommates to share hotel costs should contact Dennis Williams at 502-897-4813 and provide the following information: your name, phone number, fax number and e-mail address. Dennis can also be reached via fax (502-897-4004) or e-mail ([email protected]).

S H E M A!
a forum for listening
Gary A. Parrett, Communications Director

"Hey, hey, is anybody listening? Hey, hey, does anybody care. . . ?"

Perhaps, like me, you remember these words from the old song. Is anybody listening? Does anybody care? These are questions which, today, I wish to humbly put to my NAPCE colleagues.

Having been a part of NAPCE for about six years now, I certainly rejoice in the relationships that I have been able to develop with fellow members. And from all my interactions, I am convinced that NAPCE members are committed and caring professionals and servants of the church. I am not, by any means, questioning these commitments.

But will you allow me to wonder about our commitment to one another as an organization? Perhaps NAPCE is simply an annual gathering and not truly a functioning organization. Certainly there are pockets of relationships, or mini-networks, that exist throughout our membership, and we rejoice in the collegial efforts that arise within these spheres. And perhaps it is overly ambitious of us to ever hope for more from such an organization as ours, in such a time as ours.

Still, I wonder if we could not take baby steps forward. Can we, as a body of individuals who are engaged in a common work, speak to and listen to one another? Can we challenge and spur one another on toward love and good deeds? This was indeed my hope when I launched the "Shema!" column in the last issue of the NAPCE Newsletter.

There were those who spoke to me in knowing tones when I shared this idea with them many months ago. It was not so much a warning as it was an indulgent smile (complete with twinkling eyes) toward my apparent zeal and naivete. Cultures of institutions are not easily changed. I sensed the genuineness and wisdom of their concern. Yet I pressed on, and issued my first invitation for a conversation or two to begin.

Six months later, no one has taken me up on the invitation. Not a single idea or questionnot the slightest peephas come my way. The silence, I believe, shouts at us all, not just at me.

Perhaps I should have offered a specific, rather than a general, invitation for dialogue. Let me do so now: What keeps us, as a body, from truly speaking to, and truly listening to, one another?

Of course, I want to hear from you, my colleagues, about why such an exercise in group listening is so difficult to pull off. While I await your thoughts, let me share my own preliminary ideas on the matter. . . .

First, I think that our work tends to keep us focused on the tasks at hand. We each have more than enough relational work to attend to at home, at our schools, at our churches and in our communities. And there are countless tasks to be achieved or at least attempted. Put simply, we are all busy! Taking time for such an exercise as this is probably a luxury that few can afford.

Second, few of us have learned how to truly carve out time for authentic rest and reflection in our lives. We do not manage our busy-ness well. I can still remember what seemed to me an audible sigh from NAPCE members as Michael Medved described his personal and family Sabbath traditions during his final session with us a few years ago. I thought at the time that we, as a group of Christian leaders, were being gently rebuked by the ongoing experience of this observant Jewish man. Maybe it was just me.

Finally, listening is hard work. If there is ever to be a stream of authentic interchange between NAPCE members it will prove costly. Precious personal energy will be expended. Relationships will be challenged. Old prejudices and preferences will be forced to give way. Who is eager for such discomfort?

I grant all the above. Yet I remain convinced that we truly (perhaps desperately) need to hear each other. Of course, the conference itself should be the main forum for this. But here is one more opportunity for a dynamic exchange of ideas, a sharing of hearts together. Is anybody listening? Does anybody care?

If so, e-mail me your thoughts ([email protected]).

Planning Begins for Children's Spiritual Development and Formation Conference

The Louisville Institute has provided a grant of $20,000 to assist with the development and carrying out of a North American conference on children's spiritual development and formation from a Christian perspective. The next two years will be spent developing this conference and it should be held sometime in 2003.

Last year, several NAPCE members met at the Toronto conference to discuss the possibility of a gathering of people doing research and writing on children's spiritual growth and formation from a Christian confessional perspective. Other international gatherings