Each month, Congregation Council members highlight a ministry, program, or event at Grace. This month, I’d like to talk with you about one that has made a difference in my life, and in the lives of its over 100,000 graduates: EFM – Education for (lay) Ministry.
When I first found myself drawn closer to Grace, I recall facing challenges. My last go at faith formation many years earlier had left me with a framework adequate for a 13-year-old, but this began to feel increasingly stressed as I re-engaged with my faith. I had never expected that coming back to church after a long absence would bring up so many tantalizing existential questions. Then there was the size of the Grace congregation, which made getting to know people seem daunting.
Fortunately, my husband Kit and I attended The Rev. Canon Mark Stanger’s inspiring and humorous formation classes. Soon we were encouraged by a number of EFM participants and alumni to attend the Summer book series, which that year used “Reading the Hebrew Bible with Animal Studies”, by Ken Stone. Everything we’d heard about EFM piqued our interest; we signed up for the Summer series and liked it so much that we followed it with the first-year course in September.
But what is EFM? Its name can be confusing, especially since it contains ministry, which in this case means what all of us do as we live into our baptismal covenant. For nearly 50 years, weekly EFM groups have been meeting, following a curriculum of readings covering the Bible, the history of Christianity, and theology. We meet each week to discuss the readings, we reflect theologically on a focused topic provided by a participant, and we conclude each session by collaborating on creating and praying a collect.
At times the group members share a common reading, but often participants are reading the texts specific to their year of the program. Group discussions involve all participants and are rich and insightful. Some of the most joyful and spirit-infused experiences I’ve had in EFM were when common threads emerged serendipitously to tie together the talking points of the different years.
In short, EFM embodies something which defies easy explanation: the intentional process of doing theology with friends. For anyone interested in taking on the questions and doubts which arise as we deepen our faith, EFM is a safe space to do that. It provides a means to step back and take a new look at assumptions we may not have examined. Through the experiences we share, we grow in understanding, as we make and deepen friendships along the way.
For more information on this year’s Summer series, starting on July 14, or to join the full academic year starting in September, contact Roberta Sautter, Diocesan Coordinator for EFM and Mentor for EFM at Grace, at email@example.com.
Robert is a member of the Congregation Council and serves as the 2022 secretary-treasurer. In June, he graduated from the four-year EFM program.