Sunday, January 11, 2009

Education for Ministry (EfM)

At Emmanuel we are fortunate to have the Education for Ministry (EfM) program as one of our course offerings. Here is the lead paragraph from their website (

Education for Ministry, affectionately known as EfM, is a program of theological education-at-a-distance of the School of Theology of the University of the South. Students sign up one year at a time for this four-year program. It covers the basics of a theological education in the Old and New Testaments, church history, liturgy, and theology. Students meet regularly, usually once a week, in seminars under the guidance of trained mentors. The program grants a certificate at the completion of the four years and 18 Continuing Education Units for each year's work.

The EfM group has been active since 2000. Susan Hagen, a member of Emmanuel, and Warren Strickler, a Lutheran pastor, are trained mentors and lead the group. Here is a summary of the program:
• There are no 'lone' Christians
• We listen for God in community
• We do theology in community, reflecting on our tradition and contemporary issues
• We discern the call to ministry in community
• We worship in community
• The EfM course is mentored, not taught. Mentor and members share learning and insights
• Our current group has members from Emmanuel and from Muhlenberg Lutheran. We may extend an invitation to other groups as well. Members bring different perspectives to our discussions.

EfM is a powerful way to enable lay ministry. This program is not for the neophyte Christian. Rather, it is for Christian seeking to solidify an understanding of how God may be calling them to a ministry of Christian leadership within or beyond the parish. If this program is of interest to you, contact Susan - svhagen at verizon dot net.

Text Studies
The course materials are designed for self-study and discussion in the group. The group's theological reflection is informed by the text studies.
Year 1 - Old Testament
Year 2 - New Testament
Years 3 and 4 - Church history and theology

Spiritual Autobiography
We begin each year with an exercise in spiritual autobiography. In our text studies we look for God’s presence and action in scripture and our shared tradition. In developing a spiritual autobiography we look for God’s presence and action in our own lived experience. We reflect on the people, times and incidents that have been significant in our spiritual lives. We are looking for the things that have made us the spiritual beings we are today.
These may include:
• Encounters with God (mystical, conversion, charismatic, contemplative, experiences of mercy, nudges, pursuit – like the poem ‘The Hound of Heaven’)
• Moments of repentance
• Crises of faith (doubt, disobedience, depression)
• Crises of circumstances (breakup, death of parent, fired from a job, illness)
• Experiences of growth (intellectual, emotional, relational, service)
• People who have been ‘Christ Bearers’ for us

Theological Reflection
What is Theology?
Theology = God Talk
'theos' which means 'God', and 'logos' which means 'word'
talk about God, and relationships between God, ourselves and the world
Four Key Sources – these all reveal something to us of God, ourselves and the world, and how they are related:
• Scripture,
• Reason,
• Tradition, and
• Experience.

So 'doing' theology is going to involve:
• reading, studying and reflecting on Scripture, that is the Bible,
• using our intellect and current developments in understanding to Reason out what we think and believe,
• learning about and taking account of different Traditional understandings and insights throughout the history of the Christian church since the New Testament times,
• and understanding and reflecting on our own and other peoples' particular context and Experience in relation to these things, so that our theology is relevant

What is Reflection?
Reflection is a basic human process that is going on all the time, even as you read this, where one looks back on what has happened and analyses it in order to make sense of one's life experiences. This process of reflection involves four distinct stages:
• 'Experiencing' something - it can be any event in life no matter how small
• 'Identifying' that experience - subconsciously or intentionally describing the event
• 'Analysing' that experience - the actual reflection on the event
• 'Generalising' from that experience and analysis - determining future action

What is Theological Reflection for?
To have a structured conversation
• About something significant
• Examine what your tradition, culture and personal beliefs have to say about it
• Resulting in insights (an Ah Hah! Moment)
• With implications for action
• To take a look at our faith and beliefs and actions and see where they are congruent and where not. Sometimes we believe one thing and act another way. The idea of TR is to live with integrity: beliefs are examined, and lives are examined, and sometimes transformation occurs.
Members take turns preparing and leading worship. Some things we have done:
• Evening Prayer or Compline
• something related to the texts we're studying
• poetry or music
• prayers for the special concerns of the group
• prayers for the season, like a special Litany for All Saints

Frederick Buechner says that vocation is "the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need."
• We take the things we learn about ourselves:
• Tastes, skills, concerns, beliefs
• Things that move us to compassion, to anger
• Things other people perceive in us

And decide what we are called to do about it
• Jackie serves at Muhlenberg as a Stephen Minister
• Jean completed a degree in religious studies and is moving to Rwanda to help start a secondary school
• Warren continues to mentor the EfM group
• Lynn continues her service to Emmanuel and expands her work on outreach
• Susan mentors the EfM group and trains parish discernment groups for the diocese.

Practical Issues

18 continuing education units for each year of study
No academic credit
No papers or exams

Costs and Commitments:
You commit to one year at a time for four years. You can interrupt your course and restart it later and you can transfer to different groups if you move.

$340 for the year – this is less than cost of cable TV or a couple of restaurant lunches a week

• One night a week, for about 2 and a half hours
• 2 – 4 hours of preparation a week

Willingness to be challenged:
• To question your understanding and beliefs
• To learn about and develop your personal spirituality
• To be called to action, ministry

• Show up regularly
• Prepare ahead
• Be willing to share ideas, personal information
• Be respectful of other people's feelings and confidences

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