EfM Graduation Today
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.