Marion and Dorothy, fellow lay readers at St. David’s, encouraged me to sign up for Education for Ministry (EfM). The course not meant to be a prelude to a MDiv or the diaconate, they told me. Rather, it would give me a well-rounded understanding of Hebrew and Christian scriptures, Church history and theology. Although I had taught Sunday school and been involved in lots of study and discussion groups, I longed for a more holistic, comprehensive understanding and an opportunity to clarify my relationship with God. The course did not disappoint.
It was incredible to actually read through the two testaments over two years, a feat that I had never been able to complete on my own. The supporting books and discussions brought clarity around the context, issues and theology.
I had little understanding of church history and how the many liturgical and theological components of our and other Christian churches developed. It was fascinating to work through “the first 3,000 years” in Diarmaid MacCulloch’s book.
The focus of the final year was on developing a personal conception of God through our understanding of the culture, our study of scripture, and our personal experiences. This was the most life-altering year for me as I worked through many competing and poorly focussed thoughts. It also recognised that other religions have sought to define the same God and deal with the same issues in the world around them.
I graduated from the program a more confident and capable lay reader with a thirst to continue to expand my knowledge. I am even exploring the idea of completing a master’s degree. Others found their ministry in social justice, in evangelism, in hospitality, in helping those in need. The realisation of what our ministry would be was common for us all.
But there is more. A key part of the program is the development of skills in theological reflection (a process in which an individual or small group reflect on their personal or collective experience(s) in light of their faith). It has given me the ability to address issues that confront me in the secular world and explore how I as a Christian might react.
And that is not all. You develop a close relationship with those with who you complete the program, disciples for Christ, people with whom you can share you journey beyond EFM, people from whom you can seek advice and direction when you are confronted with choices, people with whom you can celebrate your missions when your paths cross.