By Jerry L. Van Marter
The Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) played an important part in the success of 2013 Big Tent, which drew more than 1,700 Presbyterians to Louisville Aug. 1-3 to celebrate Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission and ministry and mark the 30th anniversary of Presbyterian reunion and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center in Louisville.
The Guild’s signature event at Big Tent was a “Poetry Jam,” featuring PWG board members J. Barrie Shepherd and Dee Wade. A large crowd nearly filled the chapel at the Presbyterian Center for an evening of inspired readings by Barrie and Dee. Bill McConnell, director of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians and a gifted jazz pianist, punctuated the poetry readings with beautiful musical selections. Several who attended commented that the Poetry Jam was the highlight of Big Tent for them.
The Guild, along with The Presbyterian Outlook, Presbyterian Media Mission and the Office of Communications Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, co-sponsored the Presbyterian Communicators Network conference, one of 10 partner conferences that comprised Big Tent.
PWG board member Bill Lancaster led a workshop on “Electronic Self-Publishing” that drew a large crowd. Bill has enjoyed tremendous success with his self-published novel, The Beast and the Cross.
Barrie Shepherd’s workshop on writing poetry, a last-minute addition to the Big Tent schedule, was also well-attended.
Board member Emily Odom moderated a popular workshop entitled “Testimony Time: Techniques for Getting and Telling Faith Stories.” She was joined by the Rev. Cheyanna Losey, pastor, and two elders from United Church in Woodhull, Ill., who have collected faith stories from church members and gathered them into a book.
Through a personal connection with the PWG’s Bill Lancaster, a workshop on “The Use of Drama in Ministry,” led by ruling elder Anthony Dawson of Greer, S.C., and his troupe of actors, drew one of the largest crowds at Big Tent. The Guild sponsored Anthony’s workshop.
Guild members were also prominent in the Big Tent Communications Center. More than 60 stories were published by a staff of 11 reporters, led by Jerry Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian News Service.
The Presbyterian Communicators Network Conference drew among the most registrants for Big Tent of all the partner conferences, and PCN-sponsored events consistently drew more attendees than were actually registered for the PCN conference itself. This is a tribute to the quality of the workshops and events offered.
Thanks to all Presbyterian Writers Guild members for your continuing support of the Guild. That support lifts up the art and craft of writing as well as the mission and ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).