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EfM Canada Newsletter
Director: The Rev. Dr. Catherine Dafoe Hall
Welcome to our EfM newsletter. Keep reading for stories and ideas and news about EfM Canada!
Join us in Kelowna for this very special event as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the founding of EfM in Sewanee and the 25th anniversary of the establishment of EfM-Canada. Special guest speaker is the Rev. Dr. Norman Knowles. There will be more special guests and workshops and a dinner to celebrate. A registration form is included with this newsletter
Update: The celebration was a great success with many past graduates and friends of EfM in attendance. Dr. Knowles address is included in this newsletter in place of the registration form.
EfM online continues to grow
Mentor Chris Ross has completed registrations for year one students who will be joining the seminar this fall. Registrations are now closed.
The Rev. Paula Porter Leggett has completed her training as a mentor for EfM online and has been accredited. Congratulations Paula.
EfM online is supported by software from the University of the South, a program known as Blackboard. Students are able to post responses to the chapters on a private (to the group) discussion board and discuss their various points of view. TR and discussions of Common Lessons takes place simultaneously in an online forum where people can chat through text and see images on a whiteboard.
Mentors are needed. If you are an experienced mentor with good computer skills, a good computer, and a high speed internet connection you could be included. Write to Director of EfM-Canada to inquire further.
Students are welcome for September 2011 start-up. Students need to have a general comfort with using computers, and have a high speed internet connection. Some tech support is available. See the website for further information. www.efmcanada.ca
Especially for Coordinators
EfM coordinators are those wonderful people who plan and organize mentor trainings and promote EfM in the diocese.
Recently coordinators on the west coast met with Director Catherine Hall to share ideas and challenges. One suggestion put before us was to have a large training event (we were imagining for western Canada because that’s where we live, would it work in the East too? The idea was to have a multi-level training with a number of trainers and groups, with opportunities for fellowship and shared worship. Please let Catherine know what you think. Director of EfM-Canada
A new prospectus is now available. You can order copies for your diocese from the EfM office. We are discontinuing the brochure. Please give us feedback and let us know if these promotional materials are working for you and tell us what else you would like.
We have a new display banner. It stands on its own base and opens like a roller shade, or a projection screen. It is lightweight and easily transported. You can see it online at EfM Display and order it from the EfM office for an event in your diocese.
Mentors are trained and accredited folk who lead EfM groups.
Some fresh ideas for TR.
There is a method for TR beginning with film that many people have seen. It is posted on our website. Click on the Mentors page and then click on the Spiritual Autobiographies and Theological Reflection link. Some groups have worked out ways to watch movies by beginning early with a meal or by devoting extra time in other ways. An alternative is to use a briefer format. Recently two Youtube videos have been suggested for TR. One is a valedictory speech at a high school graduation that is deeply moving Valedictory Address Another fun idea is the “flash” opera at a market in Philadelphia Opera
In recent months a number of mentors have said that conversations about the meaning of ministry need to take place early in the EfM year as well as in Common Lesson Five. Canadian and American trainers considered this and have developed a method of Spiritual Autobiography beginning with the Baptismal Covenant. You have likely already chosen your method of SA for this year, but the questions in the method could shape a conversation within your group that might be helpful. The method is on the website, instructions above. If you use it please give us feedback.
New Group Status Reports
In response to your requests the GSR is being revised. You will find it posted in time for the November report. It asks you to tell the office things that we need to know and then offers you an opportunity to review life in your group, reporting only those things that you feel that EfM Canada needs to know. We hope it helps and yes, we do want feedback. Please note that we need to comply with relevant privacy legislation and do not provide confidential personal information about students in this report.
Life after EfM
I am a graduate of EFM (2003), St. Faith group. Since then I often wondered what God had in store for me as I would like to serve Him. Perhaps now I start to see the way.
On April 28th 2009 I was sent to the radiology lab for a CT Scan, a three dimensional picture of my head as I was experiencing dizziness, vertigo, and hearing loss. The outcome of the scan showed that I had developed a meningioma (brain tumor similar to Senator Ted Kennedy’s but non-malignant). It was 3CMx4CM in size and was located at back of my left ear. A craniotomy (open skull type) surgery was scheduled for July 22nd.
In shock, I turned to God. I then consulted my spiritual mentor at church, who recommended that I keep a journal of the events I was about to encounter. It’s the recap of my reflection of the journal I wish to share with you. I am writing this article on the eve of my first anniversary of the surgery.
I was aware that I may be facing the last days of my life. Not having been a devoutly religious person, I was seeking God, somewhat like Elizabeth Gilbert in her book “Eat , Pray and Love” but to a much lesser degree. I had always been a faithful believer of God, His all mighty power and all encompassing love. How humbled I was when all my loved ones such as my family, dear friends, my EFM group and all my churches were praying for a safe removal of my tumor, that God answered their prayers. I noticed since then all the little miracles happening throughout this experience even on to today.
Elizabeth Lesser’s book” Broken Open” gave me some insight into facing death. Her idea of dying is that death is not a process of breaking down but a process of “breaking open.” As I was preparing for my own death and funeral, I needed extra strength. I received strength from God by saying the Lord’s Prayer. He was with me. And I did not fear. Even when I was being wheeled into surgery, by repeating the Lord’s Prayer like a mantra, He kept me calm and positive.
Six months after the complete removal of the tumor and successful surgery, I was to go through MRI again to check if all was well inside my skull. The MRI showed no sign of the tumor and my brain stem returned to its normal position. I was overjoyed.
However on the same day, I received a cautionary phone call form my G.P. regarding my X-ray which showed a line on the lower lobe of my right lung (X-ray was for the recent bout of flu).Again I returned to my mantra the Lord’s Prayer. Thank God no further cautions were issued. This experience, as in Kevin Hall’s Book “Aspire” was like the “Passion”- a suffering that stretched me. Although I was emotionally still fragile, the strength from God stayed with me.
Psalm 23 reflected my life. I was able to enjoy the Vancouver Winter Olympic in February. On route one day during the games, I was reminded of God’s blessings. Some one passed out free pins and cards of 5 fishes. I felt that when I walked through the shadow of the valley of death I feared no evil for God was with me. God spared my life and gave me a second chance. I rejoice in the Lord and His blessings. His guidance will lead me through the rest of my days.
Although I was released from the hospital just three days after the surgery, the recovery was taking quite a while. I was sleeping a lot. Thank goodness that my family took good care of my needs. My hearing did not return. To cope with deafness was very challenging for me. The way others reacted to me, while I had a hard time hearing, often left me wounded. I felt lonely and isolated. Even with hearing aids, I was having difficulties in noisy areas or answering the phone. New technology came to aid. A much finer tuned type of hearing aid available solved my problems.I am now well enough to travel, even started to walk the golf course with friends just chipping and putting.
Now that I know my future is in God’s hand, I hope to share my story with those who may be going through a similar situation. Maybe this may help someone. Perhaps this is what my “life after EFM” is about, sharing my story of passion and hope.
P.S. I am most grateful that I live in B.C. where the most efficient Health Care System is in place, which is staffed with top rate medical professionals and services. I was able to have my surgery in the year before non-urgent surgery was to subject to wait listings. As well, anywhere else in the world, this type of surgery could mean financial ruins to families. But here in B.C. the medical coverage eased both financial and mental worries.
Eleanor lee, Diocese of New Westminster
Please consider sharing your experience of `life after EfM`.
EfM Tote Bags
At last EfM has a tote bag for all those heavy books and other necessities. It is available from the EfM office for a mere $20.00 including shipping. You can see a photo on the EfM website at Merchandise. The poetry magnets are now on the web site, they will cost $5.00, including postage and handling. You can still order Golf shirts and sweat shirts through the office.
Book Reviews from Patricia Bays
Transforming Scripture by Frank Wade. (New York: Church Publishing, 2008) $21.60
The Episcopal Church (USA) has recently published a series of books called “Transformations: The Episcopal Church in the 21st Century.” Each book focuses on an area in which the church is in need of transformation in this new century: vocation, evangelism, leadership, preaching, congregational life, Scripture, Christian formation, worship and stewardship. Though written for our fellow Anglicans south of the border, there is much of value in this series for Canadian Anglicans.
Transforming Scripture written by Frank Wade, Episcopal priest and adjunct Professor of Pastoral Theology at the General Theological Seminary in New York. His perspective is squarely rooted in a generous and inclusive Anglicanism that recognizes the interplay of tradition, reason and experience in exploring and understanding Scripture.
Wade acknowledges the widespread biblical illiteracy among Anglicans today. On the whole, our biblical knowledge is, in his words, “irregular and uneven.” Yet how can we learn the sound of God’s voice unless we hear the great stories of God’s relationship with humankind? How can we enter more deeply into Scripture to let it transform us? For Christianity, Wade contends, is not a body of knowledge but a way of living. Our study of Scripture, of history and tradition, is there to move us to action in the world we live in. We meet God in many ways – in the scriptures, in the stories of the lives of other Christians, in our own experience – and we are moved to accept God’s invitation to be followers and co-creators, to shape that future.
There are helpful chapters on how the Bible came to be, what makes effective Bible study, and some reflection on the Anglican approach to Scripture (the use of tradition and reason in dialogue with the text, and “a healthy respect for the kind of uncertainty that leaves us open to correction, discovery and guidance without paralyzing us into action.”)
Wade then gives examples of current Bible study materials. The first he mentions is Education for Ministry, to which he devotes 3 pages. He describes EfM as “one of the most widely used and effective theological education programs.” It has, he says, “a cerebral core that introduces its adherents to theological reflection techniques that can enrich their lives for as long as they breathe and believe.”
Other resources mentioned include Disciples of Christ in Community (DOCC), Bible Workbench, lectio divina, Alpha, study bibles and commentaries, the African Bible study method and Gospel-based discipleship, Ignatian spirituality, Godly Play and the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and an Episcopal resource “Lesson Plans for Small Congregations.” A final chapter looks at the ways in which a transforming view of scripture can help us to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Wade distinguishes helpfully between a “system” and a “method” of Bible study. “In a method we know the path but not the answer we will find. In a system we know the answer and are showing the path by which one might come to it.” He tends more towards the view of Bible study as a method, a journey of exploration that can enliven and transform congregations and individuals. Mentors and their groups will find this a helpful guide to an Anglican understanding of Scripture. The book includes a study guide with discussion questions.
Newly accredited or re-accredited Mentors
EfM policy requires that active mentors attend in-service or Formation training every 12 months. This may be extended for a few months if an event is not available or there are serious obstacles to attending training. Unaccredited mentors may not register a group. If you are bored by repeated in-service training, make sure your diocesan coordinator knows your preference for a formation event and your availability.
Joan Coles, Gertrude Hynes, Chris Neal, Stewart Payne (Diocese of Western Newfoundland), Sister Sue Elwyn SSJD (Diocese of Toronto.
Anne Anchor, Mary Brown, Roger Cooper, Melody Goguen, Lizz Lawrence, Margaret McAvity, Trudi Shaw, Paul Strudwick, Paul Thiessen (Diocese of New Westminster
Leslie Annesley, Larry Dingsdale, Norah Fisher, Peter Fowler, Blair Haggart, Victoria Perry, Joan Scandrett (Diocese of British Columbia)
Address by Dr. Norman Knowles to the EfM Canada Celebration
We have come together this evening to celebrate twenty-five years of Education for Ministry in Canada. Significant anniversaries such as this provide us with opportunities to pause and reflect—to pause and reflect on what EFM has meant to us individually, to our parish communities and dioceses, and what it has meant to the wider church and community.
EFM has been a constant in my life for nearly twenty years now, first as a student in the diocese of Toronto with Rob Ross, then as a mentor of groups at several parishes in the diocese of Calgary, and most recently as a mentor trainer who was first trained at Sewanee and has had the privilege of facilitating trainings in Canada from coast to coast. Over all those years, in all those roles, EFM has been a life-changing blessing and means of grace and has become a sort of spiritual discipline that has come to centre and engage my faith. Through EFM I have become far more aware of the richness and complexity of our faith as expressed in scripture, tradition, culture and lives lived. At times my faith has been challenged and tested but it has emerged stronger, richer, and deeper as a result of the sustained examination and integration that EFM encourages. I have become far more self-aware [sometimes uncomfortably so] and developed a much greater sense of how my own experience has shaped my understanding and reception of the tradition and how I fit within and serve the larger culture and I have a much stronger sense of what I believe and affirm as a result of the spiritual discipline that is theological reflection. I have been enriched by the groups I have mentored and trained and the relationships I have formed with persons of many different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives—persons in whom I have seen the likeness and image of God and as a result become, I hope, a more humble, gentle, generous and open person. The blessings of EFM for me have been many. And I am sure everyone in this room could attest the same.
I want to reflect with you this evening, on an important issue facing the church—an issue that EFM attempted to respond to when it was first conceived. As time passes and new generations arise, the continuity and integrity of the Christian faith depend upon its transmission, passing on, and handing over. “The Church is always more than a school,’ declares historian Jaroslav Pelikan at the beginning of his five volume history of Christian doctrine. “But the church cannot be less than a school.” Teaching and learning have been woven into the fabric of Jewish and Christian communal life across the centuries and in countless social and cultural contexts. In each of these religions of the book, adherents have educated and formed one another in the tradition’s wisdom and way of life through numerous, diverse, and historically changing practices.
The EFM programme emerged at a time when the question of how best to pass on the tradition became a matter of acute concern for those who care deeply about handing over and living the faith. EFM emerged at a time when hunger for things spiritual was strong and widespread but during which religious groups shaped by centuries of theology, liturgy, and communal life seemed less attractive to increasing numbers of North Americans—especially when compared with spiritual movements that seemed to offer newer and more free-floating approaches. EFM also emerged at a time when the challenges to religious formation presented by an image-laden consumer culture with immense formative power of its own had also become increasingly evident. All mainstream denominations in North America have experienced a decline in the number and commitment of their members, and few are surprised when young people drift away from the religious communities of their birth.
EFM responded to the question of how we are formed in faith by recognizing that Christian education does not end with Confirmation but is a life-long process. EFM also recognized that Christian education is more than the education of the intellect alone. It is instead an education of both mind and heart, aiming to transform a person to a deeper existential grasp of faith within a living tradition capable of being fully engaged with history and culture without becoming their captive.
But have we succeeded? After all, membership in mainstream churches continues to decline, commitment levels in many places are not what they used to be [or so we believe]. We also seem to be more divided, or so it appears. While EFM numbers have remained stable for several years, there has not been the growth many of us hoped for. The programme is still not offered in many dioceses and in some places there seems to be outright opposition, even fear of what the programme offers and represents. Despite all the talk of baptismal or mutual ministry over the years, ministry in all too many places is still seen as what clergy do. So has EFM really made all that big a difference? Of course we might equally ask, were would the church be today without EFM? How fewer and how far less committed might we be and how much less informed might our debates in the church be? There is no doubt EFM has made a difference, but I cannot help but lament that it has not been able to do more; I cannot help but wonder how much more vital the church in Canada would be if we had many more registrants and graduates than we do—all equipped and empowered with the tools, knowledge, self-awareness and spiritual confidence to live out their baptismal ministry.
So we need to ask ourselves, why--why is EFM not growing as fast as I am sure we all think it should? Why do we not have groups in every diocese in the country? Why aren’t people beating our doors down to sign up?
Part of the answer I think is the cost—a cost that excludes a great many persons who might otherwise welcome what EFM offers, a cost that is seen as especially prohibitive in some parts of the country. Although for a number of years now we have had a bursary fund, I believe a concerted effort needs to be made to build up a much larger EFM endowment to subsidize individuals and groups and even poorer, smaller dioceses. A greater effort needs to be made locally to increase support in dioceses and parishes for those needing financial backing. Of course access is also often limited by isolation and remoteness. The launching of an on-line group last year marks an important step in making EFM more widely available.
A second barrier I believe is that some clergy at all levels of the church see EFM as a threat; such clergy fear that the programme is too open, that it is not directive enough, that mentors do not have the training and credentials to take on such an important task [a perception that almost succeeded in killing EFM in a diocese in which it had been long established]—underlying these beliefs, I think, is an even deeper, often unstated fear—a fear of a knowledgeable, equipped and empowered laity and the consequences this may have for clergy—clergy accustomed to authority—the authority of being the theological experts to whom one should defer; clergy uncertain of their own role if laity begin to really do ministry [or at least ministry that extends beyond clearly prescribed boundaries].
Of course the persistence of such a culture among a segment of the clergy owes a great deal to a significant proportion of the laity—a laity that is still stuck in the comfortable pews Pierre Berton identified in the early 1960s; a laity content to leave ministry to clergy; a laity content to leave being church to Sunday mornings [or even more commonly Christmas and Easter or baptisms, weddings and funerals]. Clergy anxiety about their roles and position is understandable—especially in a culture and society in which clergy do not enjoy the status and influence they did in the past; a society and culture in which expectations of clergy are shifting, a society in which more and more churches cannot afford a full priest and stipend, and a society in which, to be honest, the press given clergy is usually bad. [A recent survey revealed that clergy rated below lawyers and politicians in public esteem] The point is such fears exist and we need to name and address them if EFM is to occupy a larger place in the Canadian church. We need to convince sceptical clergy of how EFM can revive their parishes and enrich the effectiveness of their own ministry.
Another barrier that EFM has to surmount is the perception that EFM is a liberal programme and part of a larger liberal agenda [even conspiracy] in the church. There are certainly many parishes in my own diocese that would discourage any of their members from attending an EFM group for these reasons. Of course EFM is only liberal if one takes an historical critical approach to scripture as being liberal—an approach that has dominated mainstream seminaries for well over a century now and in fact has its roots in medieval scriptural study and ancient rabbinic midrash—an approach to scripture rabbi Jesus himself practiced. Although the literalist or fundamentalist approach to scripture is in fact a fairly recent development, those who would identify themselves as conservative or traditional or orthodox would contest that the historical critical approach to scripture is a recent and dangerous innovation that has undermined the faith. [I once dared to suggest in a homily that the trouble with fundamentalists is that they do not take scripture seriously] To some, even providing lay persons with scriptural, theological and historical knowledge may in itself be seen as liberal—especially if done in an open, non-directive, and analytical fashion that encourages questioning and serious self-examination. Such an approach, it is feared, opens doors to doubt and undermines faith and certainly; it might lead to multiple rather than singular truth and a dangerous relativism. There is of course some truth in this—but it needs to be remembered that the opposite to faith is not doubt but certainty for where there is certainty, there is no need for faith—at least faith understood as trust and relationship rather than a particular set of fixed and immutable beliefs as faith is sometimes reduced to. The perception that EFM challenges truth and tradition is rooted in the notion that theology and history are about certainty and affirmation of received beliefs and practices. Thomas Aquinas, however, defined theology as faith seeking understanding and recognized that theology had to draw upon all resources of knowledge and experience available if it was to remain vital and relevant. Looking to theology and history for absolute certainty and final answers produces, to use the words of Rowan Williams in his book “Why Study the Past? The Importance of Church History,” a thoughtless idolatry that assumes an understanding of the past that precludes any serious reflection on the actual process by which history and theology emerges. A serious examination of our history and the evolution of theology, reveals a tradition of rich complexity and change that is far different from the uniformity and continuity that is sought by those seeking primitive purity or some pristine golden age. If we relate to the past as something that settles everything for us, something whose meaning is utterly and finally plain we close of history and theology and put an end to our self-awareness as historical and theological persons. If we truly believe in a living God, a God who continues to reveal God-self to us, we should not be surprised to discover that our history and tradition is one of change and evolution as generations of the faithful responded to the realities of their own times and places and the urgings of the Holy Spirit. So yes EFM does encourage us to think openly and theologically, it does challenge us to examine our history critically and analytically, and it does invite us to connect our tradition with our lived experience and the culture in which we find ourselves—but it does so not to seed doubt [as if doubt did not otherwise exist] or to raise questions simply for the sake of questioning—it does so to deepen and to strengthen faith; it does so not to erode or undermine the authority of scripture and tradition and the church but to give them new and living authority—an authority that is integrated into our very being. Both of which, I would argue, are essential to a vital and vibrant community of faith. In this respect, EFM is both liberal and conservative—liberal in the sense of being open and inviting, but it is also genuinely conservative; conservative in the sense of valuing a living tradition which has much to teach us. History reveals that so-called conservative or fundamentalist or orthodox movements are almost always rooted in the concerns of the present and, despite their claims to tradition, are usually rather selective in their use of the past and often very innovative. Such movements appear during periods of unsettling social and cultural change; they are an understandable response of people seeking stability and certainty in unstable and uncertain times. Rarely though do such movements last for very long before they themselves have to open the windows and let the shifting winds of the holy spirit blow through them.
Another perhaps surprising barrier is the attitude of some of our theological colleges and seminaries towards EFM. Some of these institutions see themselves as the only legitimate venues for serious theological education. They also see EFM as a threat —many of our theological colleges face numerical and financial challenges and have thus introduced their own programs of education by extension or lay formation and training. EFM represents for them competition—I would argue that they should view EFM as a potential feeder into their own programmes and that we need to do as much as possible to establish contacts and build relationships with our theological colleges. If the resources could be found, I would suggest that we offer to come and provide mentor training to all seminarians —this would not only increase the profile of EFM but equip future clergy to facilitate the establishment of groups in the parishes to which they become attached.
Yet another barrier to EFMs growth in Canada has to do with the fact that this diocese had the foresight and initiative to secure the contract for Canada. Having been raised in Ontario and spent the last seventeen years in western Canada, I know the myopia that can sometimes exist in central Canada that precludes the recognition of anything that comes from the regions. [I suspect there may also be a stronger suspicion of things American there as well]. I am also aware of a certain alienation and provincialism in the west that sometimes gets in the way of reaching out. But we need to make the programme better known; we need to deepen our contacts with bishops across the country [maybe we should offer to hold a mentor training at a meeting of the House of Bishops]. Perhaps we should extend representation on the Board to include interested persons from across the country committed to spreading the good news of EFM. And if all this fails, we may just have to go and plant EFM ourselves—south western Ontario seems to me to be especially fertile ground for EFM.
And I guess if there is an underlying barrier to all this it is resources: we need to somehow find a way to endow EFM so that it can reach out and become more widely known and accessible. I have used my time this evening to help us reflect on from where we have come and where we are at now—and I have presented us some challenges to consider as we move forward into the future. But anniversaries are not only a time for reflection and deliberation; they are also a time for giving thanks.
Let us give thanks for the University of the South where EFM was conceived and continues to be nourished and sustained and for its director and staff. Let us give thanks for this diocese--its continuing support of EFM is truly a gift to the whole Canadian church. Let us give thanks for the time, energy, wisdom and commitment of EFM’s past directors--Jack Greenhalgh, Peter Davision—and its current director Cathy Hall; let us give thanks for Sheila Mulgrew’s long and dedicated service and for the members of the Board who have guided the programme over the years; let us give thanks for EFM’s Canadian trainers Patricia Bays, David Fletcher, Cathy Hall, Chris Ross and Tim Smart and past trainers Rob Ross, Diane Clifford, Jack Greenhalgh and Stewart Payne. Let us give thanks for the diocesan co-ordinators and the dozens of past and present mentors who have faithfully offered to serve in the ministry of mentorship. And finally let us give thanks for our graduates and current group members who answered God’s call to learn and to serve—without them EFM would not exist. And finally let us ask God’s continued blessing and guidance as EFM Canada moves forward into its next quarter century. For EFM and all of you, Thanks be to God.
PLANNED TRAINING EVENTS
Please click on the link to see the training events for EFM-Canada Training Events
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Last updated: November 25th, 2010