All aspects of our lives require choices that can seem bewildering, and spirituality is no exception. As Christians, we need practical tools for reaching others with the Good News, growing in our faith, and becoming more effective in our lives.
Education for Ministry (EfM) is one such tool, or actually, a whole toolkit. A four-year program developed and overseen by the School of Theology at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, EfM provides study materials and trained leadership to help us “grow up in every way into Christ.” No background is necessary, and the course is open to all adults.
Each EfM class includes a short worship session or meditation selected and led by a different student each week. There’s also time for each student to discuss what he or she has discovered in the week’s lesson, which might be about scripture, theology or church history. And of course, EfM includes fellowship.
A process called theological reflection is the heart of EfM. Theological reflection helps members integrate what they have learned into their day-to-day lives by turning a problem or situation over in the group’s collective mind and delving deeply into it. Toward the end of the reflection, the group comes to consensus about implications for future action, and sometimes builds a group prayer.
Theological reflection is a powerful, practical tool for spiritual discernment, and it can be influential in the lives of EfM participants. One member 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.”
EfM members in the Diocese of Bethlehem are eager to welcome new colleagues. As one said, “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.” Others value EfM’s worship, which can be informal and unconventional, and the increased confidence it gives them when faced with assertions about scripture or questions about Christianity. The benefits of EfM can even extend into our everyday relationships. “It’s given me deep insights into dealing with other people,” says one member. “It’s made me more tolerant, more patient, and less judgmental.”
Next September, EfM groups will meet on Wednesday mornings at Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem and Wednesday evenings at St. Stephen’s, Whitehall. New groups are forming in Easton, Lebanon, Reading, Stroudsburg, and Tunkhannock, and groups in other areas may form if there is enough interest. To find out more about EfM or express an interest in joining a group, please talk with Cathy Bailey at 610-442-1189 or via email.