I’m writing to tell you a little about Education for Ministry (EfM), a course of study and inspiration. But really, there are two parts to the experience of EfM, the facts, so to speak, and the feelings. So, let me start with the facts.
The Book of Common Prayer’s Outline of the Faith includes the question, “Who are the ministers of the Church?” And the answer says, “The ministers of the church are lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons.”
EfM is about becoming the lay person the Book of Common Prayer talks about, the foundation of this church.
EfM is offered in Episcopal churches around the country. The course is offered in a small group setting (6-12), with one or two Mentors, and takes place from September to June each year. The course covers four school year schedules, however, the registration commitment is one year at a time.
You may hear that EfM is Bible study, and for those of you who attended Bible study as children, you may say to yourself, “Oh, I’ve done that already” or maybe even, ” No, not that again!”
We do read the Bible; in the first year, the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and in the second, the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). However, we don’t study the Bible as a rigid, finger pointing, destructive set of books. Instead we read and discuss it as a living set of documents with messages primarily of love and peace for our lives.
Our own reactions, thoughts and feelings about the scriptures are the basis for our small group discussion. (Note: there are no tests.)
After the first two years, we study Christian history and ethics.
We read and reflect in between classes, and perhaps most important, we develop close relationships with our group members. We look into ourselves, we struggle to find meaning in the chaos of today (in part by looking at the biblical lessons of the past) and, perhaps most important, we come to know more clearly the gifts we’ve been given and how we want to use them for others, and for our church.
Now, for the feeling part. I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I began EfM. It was perhaps the first time in my life I didn’t have expectations of something I embarked on. Had anyone told me a few years prior that I would take a course such as this, I would have said, “no way.” How happy I am that I said, “yes!”
I joined with a group of believers in Jesus who wanted to make a better community, a better world. In short, we strove, and strive, to walk Jesus’ path, to reach out to everyone, no exceptions. We wrote spiritual autobiographies every year and shared them with each other, an inspiring and bonding experience like few others.
Our mentor facilitated our discussions with grace and care for each individual’s progress in their spiritual journey. This was a safe place to learn, take risks by sharing, and grow in our love of God.
I graduated two years ago, and I find my spiritual journey is stronger than ever before in my life. I now feel God’s unfailing love for me in a way I never did before. And there is so much more to learn!
Perhaps most important of all, through the EfM journey I fell in love with God. My gratitude abounds, so I volunteer at my church and in the larger community, and my love for God grows deeper. Prayer is a special part of each day, mostly prayers of gratitude for God’s love and my love for God. EfM taught me to follow Jesus’ way, not as an abstract, but as a conscious decision every day. And I’m filled with joy.
Do consider EfM for yourself…dip a toe into the river and try out the cool, life-giving water, one of God’s many gifts. Take a chance…you too may fall in love with God.
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