Every baptized person is called to ministry
By Rosemary Hagan
Every baptized person is called to ministry. The Education for Ministry (EFM) program provides people with the education to carry out that ministry. During the Service of Confirmation we ask God to “Renew in these your servants the covenant you made with them at Baptism. Send them forth in the power of the Spirit to perform the service you set before them.” EFM offers an opportunity to discover how to respond to the call to Christian service.
EFM is an offering of The University of the South, School of Theology, and EFM groups are found throughout the USA and around the world. Over 70,000 persons have participated in the program. More than eighty dioceses of the Episcopal Church as well as other denominations have contractual arrangements with EFM.
Through study, prayer, and reflection, EFM groups move toward a new understanding of the fullness of God’s kingdom. This process can be illustrated by a two-rail fence. One rail is the Christian tradition. The other is the collective experience of the group’s members. The rails are linked by fence posts which represent the seminar sessions where life and study meet. The fence is grounded in the soil of regular worship which is vital to the life of the group.
Participants in the EFM program study the entire sweep of the Christian tradition from the earliest period to the present. Participants learn the disciplines of biblical exegesis and interpretation, systematic theology, church history, ethics, liturgics, and ascetical theology. Students are responsible for setting their own learning goals, and spend between two and four hours in study and preparation each week. In the seminars members have an opportunity to share their insights and discoveries as well as to discuss questions which the study materials raise for them.
The traditional content is not studied in a vacuum. Students belong to small “communities of learning” in which the events of each person’s life may be examined in the light of the materials being studied. While the course materials provide substantial academic content, the focus of the program is on life as ministry and understanding that ministry. EFM provides Christians with that basic skill which is the foundation of all Christian ministry — theological reflection. In doing this, participants sharpen their skills of personal and cultural assessment and enhance abilities to be effective in a variety of ministries. By examining their own beliefs and their relationship to our culture and the tradition of our Christian faith, participants can learn what it means to be effective ministers in the world. In coming to terms with the notion that everything we do has potential for manifesting the love of Christ, we discover that our ministry is at hand wherever we turn.