A Taste of Education for Ministry (EfM)
by Cathy Bailey
In all aspects of our lives, there are bewildering choices to be made and none more than in the area of spirituality. We need practical tools that can help form us as Christians and enable us become more effective in our lives, which will also make us better able to reach others with the Good News.
Education for Ministry (EfM) is one very effective tool for formation and growth - actually, a whole toolkit. A program developed and overseen by the School of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, EfM uses a multi-pronged approach to help us "grow up in every way into Christ." Sewanee provides study materials and trained leadership. No background is necessary; this course is open to all adults.
As one EfM-er in our group put it, "being in an EfM group gives a place where you can discuss things of a religious nature in a friendly and caring environment. Your thoughts can be openly discussed without having to worry about judgment." Here are some other comments about EfM from our current group:
"It has given me a caring, confidential group that shares my commitment in my faith."
"Now I'm able to think clearly and not be confused when others make statements based on scripture."
"The group worship, informal and often very unconventional, is very refreshing to my spiritual life."
"It's given me deep insights into dealing with other people — made me more tolerant, more patient, and less judgmental."
"Now I have greater confidence in answering the questions of children and others about Christianity."
Sharing others' experiences, I've learned that I'm not alone in any important sense.
How does EfM work? Each EfM class is a mixture: a short worship session or meditation (selected and led by a different student each week), time for each student to discuss what he or she has discovered in the week's lesson (scripture, theology or church history), fellowship and most important of all, TR or theological reflection — a process for integrating what is learned into day-to-day living.
Theological Reflection is the heart of EfM. It's a way of turning a problem or situation over in the group's collective mind, delving deeper and deeper into the matter. Toward the end of the reflection, the group comes to a consensus about implications for future action, and sometimes builds a group prayer about the reflection.
One member says, "Hearing other people's responses in a given reflection often opens whole new avenues of insight to me." Another says, "When we created our first prayer via theological reflection, it was a mind-boggling experience, made me feel closer to my fellow EfM-ers and to God. It was a magnificent way to pray."
In Theological Reflection people learn to come together and exchange views with others with respect for all, and become adept at using a powerful and practical tool for spiritual discernment.
Our classes invite you to consider whether EfM might be right for you. We have groups planned for Wednesday mornings at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem; Wednesday evenings at St. Stephen's, Whitehall, a group in Reading, and a group in Susquehanna County. Other areas may be available if there is enough interest. There are no prerequisites except an open mind and the ability to come to class on a regular basis during the next year. We will begin our next EfM course year in September 2014.
If you have any questions or would like more information about EfM, contact Cathy Bailey by phone at 610-442-1189 or by email at email@example.com