Beth has been directing the religious education program at Interfaith Families Project (IFFP) since November of 2008. Since she did not have much experience with Judaism when she came to IFFP, Rabbi Harold White tutored her for two semesters in Judaism and the connection between Judaism and Christianity. She has participated in Jewish retreats and helped introduce Hebrew into the younger grades of Sunday School. She continues to attend church on Sundays when IFFP does not meet, and draws a lot of joy from her participation in Jewish, Christian and Interfaith worship. She identifies herself as “a Christian heavily influenced by Judaism.”
For most of her life, Beth has been involved in education: teaching, supervising Sunday schools, training teachers, and writing curriculum for all age groups from 3 year olds to senior citizens.
Since Beth’s parents were missionaries, she grew up in Trinidad and Brazil. There, she developed a great interest in other cultures and religions as well as fluency in Portuguese. She started helping in a Sunday school class at age 13, and by 15, she was teaching the class by herself. Every summer in high school, she taught in several Vacation Bible Schools and on trips, she wrote skits and performed with puppets. While in college, Beth wrote and directed a Vacation Bible school in Brazil.
Beth earned a B. A. in Elementary Education from Asbury College, and an M. A. in Religion from Anderson School of Theology. Her thesis analyzed programs which work with street children in Brazil. On various trips, she taught educational methods and puppetry to teachers and day care workers in Brazil.
Beth and her husband, David Harness, served as co-pastors for six years in Glen Burnie, Maryland. After being in Glen Burnie for a year and a half, the church building burned down. She worked with church people to reestablish the educational program in the temporary location, to plan new facilities, and to reestablish the church’s educational programming once the building was rebuilt. She led the youth group, using curriculum she wrote. Beth recruited, trained, and supervised teachers, taught Sunday school classes and Bible study groups and worked with the education committee to put together creative events.
Before coming on staff at IFFP, Beth coordinated a Learning for Life program for three years. It is a character and career education program in District of Columbia and Maryland public schools. She trained teachers to use the program, recruited speakers for career days, and spoke in many classrooms.
Beth and David have two children, ages 13 and 17. On her time off, Beth likes to spend time with her family and friends, swim, make crafts, and read (alone and to her kids).
Email Rev. Beth McCraken-Harness at RevBeth@iffp.org