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EfM Graduation Today

May 15, 2010

Well…four years went by pretty damn quickly! I can’t believe I’m going to be getting my EfM (Education for Ministry) Certificate today.

I am going to speak a bit about my experience at the ceremony today. Here is a preview of what I’ll say, and maybe, I’ll add a picture to this later.

Hello. My name is Eileen , and I am a member at Christ Church. It is with great pleasure and great honor that I share with all of you a bit of my experience in EfM as I come to the completion of my studies.

I came to the Episcopal Church very deliberately in 2006. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, and for a variety of reasons, both theological and institutional, I had been feeling my spiritual needs were not being met. I began to research other denominations, and from my first visit to Christ Church, I felt instantly as if I had come home. I enjoyed the liturgy, and the feeling of community and care generated by the parish, and so, I found myself and my family participating in a new church home.

I can only say that making this change felt like a call from God. I felt called to this church, and compelled to become an active member. I felt like there was work for me to do, and that I needed to get on with doing it. I became an acolyte (something that was not open to me as a child growing up in the Roman Catholic church), an usher, and eventually a Sunday School teacher and Vestry Member.

As I engaged in new activities in my church, I realized that I wanted to know more – to get a more structured and formal understanding of the bible, and theology. As a Roman Catholic, I was rather versed in dogmatics, but not really a practical understanding of the bible or church history. I was immediately drawn to the EfM program, and I actually started the program within a few months of joining the Episcopal Church.

Initially, I took EfM online. As a wife and mother, who is also a full time employee, I found that being able to complete my studies online, in my home, worked best for my schedule. People often asked me if it is possible to do Theological Reflection online, and the answer is resoundingly, YES. It is a different experience from doing it face to face, but, in essence, you can use the same formats, and arrive at essentially the same place in an online chat environment as you can when sitting in the room conversing. My EfM class was mentored by Bethany, who is from Tennessee, and my classmates were from all over the country – Maryland, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oregon, New York, Illinois, Louisiana! It was very interesting to hear the similarities and differences in practice and opinion of Episcopalians from various regions of the country and who were various ages, and from a variety of backgrounds – scientists, homemakers, social workers, librarians, business owners, retirees, college professors. I really got to mix with a rich assortment of Episcopalians from across the country.

I found the activities of the EfM program to be engaging and enriching. Never before had I been asked to talk about my own Spiritual Journey. In completing the Spiritual Autobiographies, I found that writing down my experiences, and contemplating that each experience has lead me to where I am today was a valuable reflective tool for me, and I learned a lot about myself that I’d never paid attention to. Listening to the Spirtual journeys of others is equally rewarding – there is an essential sameness to our quests at the heart of all our different pathways – a drive for a more authentic and deeper relationship with God.

The weekly readings were interesting, challenging, and eye-opening. So much of what I felt challenged by in the church, particularly of my childhood, is not as black and white as I had originally conceived it to be. I came to know the concept of both/and better. I came to understand that the truth is deeper than historical factuality, and I was surprised to learn that every day objects could contain and prompt a host load of theology. When it is said that God is in everything, it means that God is in EVERYTHING – paper clips, kitchen whisks, family struggles, community problems. All these present opportunity to see and know God in a deeper way, if you are willing to look on them with a theological eye. That is what theological reflections have taught me.

For my final year, I was approached by my home EfM group, and I decided to complete my studies face to face. This has been a wonderful decision – we have such a great group! Lots of opinions! Lots of different backgrounds. This past year has been a joy and I have learned so much and grown deeply in fellowship and community with these members of my parish.

So, here I am. Finishing up a four year project to deepen my biblical understanding, and finding myself in a place where I have greater perspective on how Christianity has developed and divided, both historically and theologically, and what this means to me as a practicing Christian – how these things influence my understanding of what it means to be Christian, and how it may influence my fellow parishioners, and my fellow Episcopalians throughout the country.

Last week, at our EfM sponsored pre-reformation Eucharist celebration, a member of our parish, and potential future EfMer asked me what I was going to “do” now that I had finished EfM. The question, which is a good question! Took me a bit off guard. I thought quickly, and responded that I planned to continue in my various lay ministries with the church, but that I now feel like I have a more sound rationale for what I am doing. In terms of teaching the high school Sunday School group, I definitely feel more aware and informed, better equipped to answer this group’s oft times challenging questions. When I serve as an acolyte, I have a better understanding of where this practice developed, what it means to serve, and how that service is an active prayer to God – a gift I give and receive. So I suppose that EfM doesn’t so much prepare you for a specific ministry, as much as it prepares you to perform any ministry with more intention, from a different perspective, and with a greater awareness of the theological implications of any ministry offered by our churches.

I have grown deeply through this program, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to grow in faith, in intellect, and in fellowship, both with my local parish, and the wider Episcopal community. My thanks, in particular go out to my EfM mentors, Donna, and Bethany, for providing an atmosphere that has been engaging, thought provoking, sometimes challenging, often humorous, and always filled with the Holy Spirit.

Thank you.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan s. permalink
    May 15, 2010 10:45 am

    Oh, Eileen! Congratulations on completing this! It sounds like such a wonderful experience.
    I love your answer about what you will “do.” Obviously you are already “doing.” Love to you, Fluffy!

    • episcopalifem permalink*
      May 15, 2010 11:08 am

      Thanks Susan! Love to you too!

  2. May 15, 2010 11:05 am

    Thank you for this wonderful reflection on your journey with EfM. I wish you every blessing as you continue your ministry. May I put a link to it on the EfM page on Facebook?
    Karen Meridith
    Director, Education for Ministry

    • episcopalifem permalink*
      May 15, 2010 11:08 am

      That would be great Karen, if you think it is worth sharing! Thanks for your kind words and good wishes for me!

  3. Tom Connolly permalink
    May 15, 2010 11:52 am

    EfM has been very important in my life, too. I’m a mentor at St. Monica’s in Naples, FL. This year I focused on Year 1 again, and after five years of EfM new insights keep happening. I think the best thing about EfM is how it opened my mind to speculative thinking beyond dogma. Thanks for your sharing. I do the periodical at my church, St. Paul’s in Naples, and would like to use excerpts in an upcoming issue, with your permission.
    Thanks and may God bless you.
    By the way, am I a Episcopaliman?

    • episcopalifem permalink*
      May 15, 2010 6:04 pm

      If you want to be Episcopaliman Tom, I won’t stop ya!

      You are more than welcome to use some exerpts in your periodical – can you send me a link or a copy when you do it? Thanks!

  4. Kitty permalink
    May 15, 2010 12:01 pm

    Congratulations on your graduation. May your continuing journey be as interesting, informative, challenging and rewarding as it has been to this point. Celebrate your accomplishment; it’s a wonderful thing.

    • episcopalifem permalink*
      May 15, 2010 6:04 pm

      Thanks Kitty! I’m enjoying it!

  5. Sherry permalink
    May 15, 2010 1:56 pm

    Congrats Eileen. I started year one but had to quit because I couldn’t make enough of the meetings (at night and I was always getting snowed in) I can’t afford the online lessons (I was getting a scholarship break for the in person ones). But, I’ve continued my reading and supplemental reading, and Jan from Yearning for God has agreed to send me the 2nd and 3rd and 4th year material, so I shall continue. I’ve got about 3 weeks left of the 1st year. I agree the material is utterly fantastic and I’m learning so much!

    your speech is excellent! YOu should be so proud of yourself!

    • episcopalifem permalink*
      May 15, 2010 6:06 pm

      Thanks Sherry! It’s interesting and well worth it! And thanks regarding the speech – I was nervous, but it seemed to go off well.

  6. Episcogranny permalink
    May 15, 2010 2:11 pm

    Congratulations on completing EfM. I completed it in 2005 . Truly it changed my life. My studies taught me that what I had always known and believed to be true wasn’t necessarily that way. Like another of your commenters, I learned that there is life and thought beyond dogma, that it was ok if not absolutely necessary to question. I learned through theological reflection that the “Christian Life” and “regular life” were one and the same, that life was not something that could be compartmentalized. What a great experience! I’m glad it was that way for you as well.

    • episcopalifem permalink*
      May 15, 2010 6:07 pm

      Yeah – that is one of the most important lessons, I think. We are all ministers and regular life is the only life we’ve got to minister in! Thanks for your kind thoughts!

  7. Merry permalink
    May 15, 2010 2:28 pm

    Thanks so much for putting this on facebook, or I would not have seen it. I’m just finishing second year in Kansas and am spending this week letting the values of EfM form in me for our final class this coming week.

    I’d read a sentence or two of your speech and new things about my own experience would “come” to me. You are a fantastic catalyst. I hope to find more such testimonies online. We teach each other without knowing.

    With affectionate gratitude,

    • episcopalifem permalink*
      May 15, 2010 6:07 pm

      Glad you found this meaningful Merry! and I’m glad it was posted there too!

  8. Paul Davison permalink
    May 15, 2010 9:58 pm

    Congratulations from someone finishing up year 2!

    • episcopalifem permalink*
      May 17, 2010 10:26 am

      Thanks for the well wishes Paul!

  9. May 16, 2010 2:29 pm

    Congratulations Eileen! I am so dang proud of you!

    And I’m grateful, because I didn’t know something like EFM existed and I’ve bookmarked the EFM Online to check it out as a future option for me. *gasp!*

    • episcopalifem permalink*
      May 17, 2010 7:27 am

      Thanks Kay! I think you’d like EfM – you should definitely check it out!

  10. May 18, 2010 6:16 pm

    I’m late to this, Eileen–but I wanted to congratulate you! And I also wanted to say that, as an EFM mentor, I would be beyond-thrilled if any of my seminar folks wrote such a wonderful tribute to their experience.

    May God bless you as you move into the next phase of your spiritual journey.


    • episcopalifem permalink*
      May 19, 2010 9:40 am

      Thank you Doxy! It’s never too late to say congratulations, is it?


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