In 1975 the Reverend Charles Winters published the first version of the curriculum we know now as Education for Ministry (EfM). His modest title was “Theological Education by Extension.” Winters hoped that eventually a few hundred lay people among Sewanee’s 28 owning dioceses across the southeast would be interested enough to complete the four-year course.
The rapid growth and geographical reach of EfM surprised everyone, including Winters. By 1980, nearly 4,000 participants were enrolled. By 1985 the program had contracts with 56 dioceses across the Episcopal Church. By 1995 EfM had become an international program with affiliates in Canada, the Bahamas, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia (which includes Hong Kong), and New Zealand. Since then a group in Botswana has started, and four new groups in the Virgin Islands will launch soon. EfM now has contracts with 93 of the 100 Episcopal dioceses in the United States.
This exponential growth speaks to the longing among the Episcopal laity for substantive opportunities to learn and grow in community with other people of faith.
Today we have the privilege of broadening the scope of The Beecken Center to include a new formation course, The Essential Practices of Christian Disciples, as well as new offerings in VocationCARE, and a new group discernment process for congregations, Living in the Green. A variety of leadership development opportunities will be offered to congregations through support from the Lilly Endowment and a Missional Enterprise Zone grant from The Episcopal Church. SUMMA Theological Debate Camp is an exciting opportunity for high school youth. For the mystics among us we will also be hosting contemplative practice retreats, and for farmers and aspiring farmers, the Faith, Farm and Food events on launching food justice and sustainable agriculture ministries. There will be disaster chaplaincy trainings, Sacred Dying trainings, and many more opportunities for learning, empowerment and growth.
In the development of all our new offerings we are extremely fortunate to have the participation of EfM Director, and Associate Director of The Beecken Center, Karen Meridith, and her staff, who have honed the art of creating, administering, and hosting trainings on the domain for many years, and who now bring their expertise to all our programs and trainings.