Nearly giddy with excitement, over 1,000 members and friends of the Association of Church Educators (APCE) streamed into the grand ballroom of the Convention Center here Wednesday evening for a performance by award winning artist and local Presbyterian Amy Grant.

Grant was introduced by Bill Caruso, the director of adult education at First Presbyterian Church here, where Grant is a member. He highlighted the fact that Grant is not just another Music City musician. She is extensively involved in the community, working on behalf of the symphony, philanthropic organizations and active with youth at First Church, even teaching Sunday school.

Grant was enthusiastically welcomed by the educators and, despite her diminutive size and the vastness of the stage, filled the ballroom with warmth. Funny, personable and approachable, Grant spent the next hour telling stories and singing her familiar and well-loved hits.

Entertaining the crowd with such favorites as “Thy Word,” and “My Father’s Eyes” Grant captivated those gathered with stories about her life and family between songs.

Especially poignant were stories from last year when she experienced both the death of her former father-in-law and the death of her close friend and songwriting buddy, Ruth McGinnis.

These and other pivotal life experiences, such as her divorce from Gary Chapman and second marriage to country singer Vince Gill, have deeply influenced her songwriting and were apparent when she sang from her upcoming album, Somewhere Down the Road.

New songs included “Threaten Me with Heaven,” and the moving “Unafraid.” Through the year that produced these songs, she said she felt God’s presence particularly strongly, adding that her wish for 2010 “is to be really awake. I don’t want to miss out on anything that God is doing,” she said.

Also included in the evening was an historical sketch of Nashville, presented by Presbyterian elder and history professor, Carole Bucy. She entertained those gathered with stories from Tennessee and Nashville history, including how Nashville came to be called “the buckle of the Bible belt,” and what she said is the real truth about the Scopes trial in Dayton, TN: it was all an effort to stimulate the economy.

The Rev. Janet Tuck is director of communications for the Synod of Living Waters and a frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service.