By Tracey L. Carson
The doors of the Philadelphia Biblical University in Langhorne, Pennsylvania burst open a few weeks early this year as a windfall of over 280 aspiring Christian writers filled the hallowed halls. Many had a suitcase in one hand and a manuscript in the other. All were thirsty for different dispositions of knowledge, seeking weaponry for their entrance onto the battlefield for a greater Christian presence within today’s entertainment communications media.
Under the direction of founder Marlene Bagnull, Litt.D., the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference began in 1983 as a one day event. Bagnull, along with a staff of 61 instructors, welcomed the multitude of enthusiastic beginner, intermediate, and advanced wordsmiths as they entered what was referred to as a “writer’s heaven” by LaVerne White, Director of the Fellowship of Learning School in New York City.
Bagnull’s conference staff consisted of a long list of accredited editors, publicists, agents, publishers, teachers, novelists, and marketing consultants, just to name a few of the experts that were present and ready to steward.
Registrants journeyed from places as far away as Brea, Calif., Collierville, Tenn., Croydon, Great Britain, and Ottawa to attend seminars on numerous topics such as Sunday School Curriculum, Scene Creation, Song Capturing, and Overcoming the Spirit of Fear. Also, for the first time in the symposium’s history, there were a record number of teenage attendees amidst the swarm of eager scribes.
The morning, afternoon, and evening itineraries of conference registrants were jam-packed with scholastic and informational opportunities. Yet, no day was without an alpha of prayer and an omega of praise. Registrants from numerous Christian denominations were inextricably linked to Christ as they connected with shared songs, bible study and personal testimonies. Throughout the entire affair, the glorification of God came before all things.
The educational component of the now four day event was comprised of 46 Workshops, five General Sessions, three Hands-on Clinics that were exclusively for writers working toward publication, and five Continuing Sessions which were intense learning opportunities on specific areas of concentration such as “Breakthrough Scriptwriting.”
Leading the Continuing Session pack was founder and Chairperson of the Christian Film & Television Commission®, and Publisher of MOVIEGUIDE® magazine, Dr. Ted Baehr. His commitment to the craft of scriptwriting and to the restoration of the principles and ethics of mass media engrossed the group of up-and-coming screenplay writers. Explaining that time was of the essence in the war to strengthen and uphold American morality in the film and television industries, Baehr politely skipped all formalities, rolled up his sleeves and went to work. His forum was a tutorial-filled marriage of wisdom impartation, knowledge and experience sharing, as well as the teaching of craft intricacies. Baehr’s techniques stirred up the God-given talents that were already afire amongst the multi-cultural group whose ages spanned from teen to senior.
Upon conference commencement, during Baehr’s final Continuing Session, original novice screenplays were being energetically performed. Some sank and others swam, but none drowned in the sea of encouragement that engulfed the classroom. As this particular group of apprentices departed the blessed gala, the message they carried directly from the mouth of Dr. Ted Baehr, which resounded from heart to heart, was:
“As it reads in Luke 12:48, remember that ‘For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.’ Therefore, our art should be excellent! Wherever this path leads you, do not leave your Christianity at the door. Tell people about Jesus, because the call that we have is to attack the gates of hell. As C.S. Lewis said, ‘The world doesn’t need more Christian writers. It needs more good writers who are Christian.’”