“Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” (Baptismal Covenant, BCP 304).
Every baptized Christian is called to ministry. What is yours? Education for Ministry (EfM) is a program of the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee) that provides the foundational education to assist you in discerning and carrying out your ministry. Like the mustard seed (Luke 13:18-19), we need fertile soil to grow. EfM is that fertile soil and we are the mustard seeds. Learning scriptures, church history, and theology is the light shining on the soil, warming it so the seed will sprout.
The EfM program develops an informed and knowledgeable laity through a series of four, one-year seminars. A small group seminar (maximum of 12 participants and two mentors) is the nucleus of the EfM program. Likened to the original house churches of the first century, our group conducts all four years concurrently in the same seminar. Year one students study the Hebrew Bible; year two the New Testament; year three is church history; year four wraps it all together with theology. Additionally, there are several interlude periods when all four years will study from the same material which is linked to that year’s theme. Themes from past years include: Living Faithfully in Your World (2013-14), Living Faithfully in a Multicultural World (2014-15), and Living as Spiritually Mature Christians (2015-16). The theme for next year will be Living Our Journey Into God. From mid-September through mid-June, we meet at on Tuesday evenings for fellowship over a meal, to discuss our studies, and to reflect theologically. Participants will spend on average between two to four hours weekly preparing for the seminars.
Seminar groups work under the leadership of mentors who serve as enablers and administrators. Mentors are not teachers who impart information to a class in the traditional sense. Instead they manage the group dynamics, guide the discussion of lessons and theological reflections, and administer logistics with Sewanee. Rather, the role of the teacher is engineered into the program materials as well as being heavily shaped by your fellow participants. Bringing the light of what we learn to share in an intimate group setting each week allows for insights and growth — new affirmations and understandings — that can sustain and support us in our lives as Christians living day-to-day in the world while simultaneously teaching us to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance for our personal ministries.
EfM is not a program for ordination, but rather a series of lay education seminars conducted amongst a small, tight knit community. Neither is EfM a Bible study. While the readings during the first two years are centered on the Bible, more important is the development of skills in theological reflection. In learning to think theologically, we examine our beliefs and their relationship to our culture and the tradition of our Christian faith, making us more effective ministers in the world.
Finally, EfM is not for everybody. While it may be easier to think of EfM as four one-year units rather than a full four-year program…it is still a commitment. It is important that potential participants seriously consider whether they will have the time to devote to the program. As previously noted, students need to be able to commit to regular attendance and active participation, which will include several hours weekly of preparation. The group relies on each member for it to achieve its full potential. Absences diminish that potential. Participants must also commit to developing and maintaining a healthy group dynamic that values a diversity of opinions while respecting the dignity of every human being.
For the interested or just curious, talk to one of the experienced EfM folks (Brother Albert Francis, Fred Smith, Lisa Churchill, Gordon Shugars, and Agnes West-Kohler are a few recent graduates) at Saint Paul’s or visit the EfM web site. There you’ll find lots of information, including sample lessons.
A new EfM year will begin in early September. The incoming group of participants is already 50% booked. Registrations close in early August or when all available seats are reserved. For more information contact Mark Patzman at EfM.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Year 1 The Hebrew Bible
A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible John J. Collins
Year 2 The New Testament
Introducing the New Testament Mark Allan Powell
Year 3 Church History
Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years Diarmaid MacCulloch
Year 4 Theology
Theology: A Very Brief Introduction David Ford
Mysteries of Faith Mark McIntosh
The Christian Moral Life Timothy F. Sedgewick
My Neighbor’s Faith Peace, Rose, and Mobley
Interlude 1 Transformed Lives: Making Sense of Atonement Today Cynthia Crysdale
Interlude 2 Care for Creation Delio, Warner, and Wood