The following article was published in the Spring 2012 issue of The Episcopal New Yorker, which discusses the Education for Ministry program. Click here to read the article in original PDF format.
All about Education for Ministry (EfM)
By Lelia Kelleher-Heinricks
What exactly is Education for Ministry (EfM)? I found myself asking this question when my local vicar recommended the program. I asked around to the few people I knew that were in the program and decided to begin my first year in September 2010. The experience has been remarkable and I am taking this opportunity to share the facts on the program as well as my experiences over my past few months in the EfM program.
EfM started in 1975 is a four year distance learning program through Sewanee, the University of The South. When asked, people described it as a “deeper understanding of Christian living and the church and how to bring the teachings of Christianity beyond Sunday service into everyday living”. The EfM program can be found throughout the United States and beyond.
The program, which you commit for one year at a time, consists of reading the Bible, understanding the Church and a real world understanding of theology. The first two years consist of study of the Old and New Testament. Years 3 and 4 are ‘Church History’ and ‘Theological Choices’. The program is also peppered with “Common Lessons” topics which are discussed in the group and really brings out the Christian faith through our own experiences.
Each week, students read a “Parallel Guide” that assigns reading and give a summary of the lesson. Once a week, in small groups, the students meet and discuss the reading and thoughts on the materials. It also gives the students an opportunity to ask questions to the group and their mentor, who leads the discussion. The small groups are the key to the learning process and they enrich the students’ understanding. Set up as a ‘one room school house’, students, from all of the four years, discuss and enrich the others about their understanding of what they have read and how it applies to their everyday in the modern world.
EfM is a place that encourages discussion, opposing views and questions (no matter how basic). EfM groups consist of a blend of regular church-goers, lay-leaders, future deacons- or priests-in-training, and those of us just starting on the road towards our calling. They are made up of people of different age groups, different church experiences and different up-bringing.
The group discussions are what I look forward to each week. At first I was intimidated—I had not read much of the Bible and was not up on my ‘church glossary’. I joined EfM because I wanted my learning and understand on being a Christian to grow deeper.
My EfM group, at St. Luke’s-In-The-Fields, welcomed me with open arms. Every week I leave with a deeper understanding and sometimes even more questions, of my responsibilities in this world as a Christian. Our mentor, Rev. Mark Waldon, is wonderful in guiding us through our discussions and questions. The idea of dedicating four years at first seemed daunting. But I liked the idea of being able to commit one year at a time so if I needed to take a year off because of life events, I could. Now that I’m in the program and enjoy it so much, I really think I would miss it if I had to pause my education. I get so much out of EfM.
Our baptismal membership calls for us all to minister and EfM helps us act on that calling. I encourage all people, wherever they are in their faith journey, to become part of EfM. Groups start in September and continue through June (with some exceptions). For more information and to find a group near you, contact: New York Diocesan Coordinator – The Rev. Betsy Johns Roadman, firstname.lastname@example.org; 914-923-3571.