Education for Ministry, or EfM for short, is an adult learning program that seeks to enable people to see and to experience the connection between Christian faith and daily life. EfM was developed in 1975 by the Anglican School of Theology at the University of the South in Tennessee and continues to be updated, most recently in 2014. From those first days, it has expanded internationally and ecumenically, with groups in Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Mexico, The Bahamas and Botswana. Over the years, more than 80,000 people, including Anglicans and members of other denominations, have participated.
EfM, also referred to as ‘Exploring faith Matters’, began in Australia in 1978, through the Director of the General Synod Board of Religious Education, but is now administered by the Anglican Church Southern Queensland as EfM Australia, under licence from the University of the South. Many Australian Dioceses have offered, or continue to offer, EfM as a reflective and comprehensive course of Bible study that has no formal assessment. During this time, over 2,000 people have completed the four-year program. The format is home study and weekly group meetings with an accredited mentor, who can be either clergy or lay. Its particular focus is lay education.
EfM contributes to the mission of our church by promoting theological education, worshipping and celebrating the Grace of God and living as ‘one holy Catholic and apostolic church’ in a reflective and supportive group. Each week, we begin with worship, then discuss the readings for the week. It has been my experience that each of us in our group may have different ideas and insights about what we have read from the Bible and the particular study text, but through discussion and reflection, we are able to learn about ourselves and each other and how these writings pertain to our daily lives in 2019.
The first year of the course is divided into five units on the Old Testament, with reflection and interpretation using a selected introductory text to support participants. There are also two interlude units on recently published texts. The planning for the 36 weeks of the year’s program is worked out by the members of the group to suit adult learning styles and the participants’ calendars and workloads. It is a very member-driven style of organisation, sharing responsibility for leading worship and supplying the shared meal. The registration fee of $185 also covers the cost of a comprehensive work folder. Participants will also need to purchase or borrow the two interlude texts for the year and it is recommended that they have an annotated Bible.
After being a member of the multi-Parish Cathedral EfM group throughout 2018, I would describe my personal EfM experience as a guided exploration of my faith through study, reflection, discussion and sharing, in a supported and accepting group, led by knowledgeable and experienced mentors.
EfM has allowed me to begin to map and reflect upon my own spiritual journey and to identify times in that journey that have made a difference to me and who I am as a Christian. These insights have given me an opportunity to affirm, question and challenge my beliefs and values and how I want to be, and be seen to be, as a Christian, by those around me, in our culture, and in this time and place.
EfM has also given me the confidence to speak more freely about my faith because I am coming to understand it more for myself. This has allowed me to witness more openly in my Parish and my life generally. My experience being part of the multi-Parish Cathedral EfM group in 2018 has encouraged more members of our Parish to consider joining the group in 2019.
People from all parishes are welcome to join us in 2019, with the Cathedral EfM Group beginning on Monday evenings from 17 June at St Martin’s House, between 6pm and 8.30pm. To find out more about joining the Brisbane Cathedral EfM group in 2019, please email The Rev’d Nicholas Whereat or email The Rev’d Canon Gary Harch.
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