EfM = in-depth Christian formation

by David Boyce, a member of St. Margaret’s in Annapolis and a member of the Diocese’s Standing Committee.

Education for Ministry is a four-year program that I would dub “seminary lite”.  It is targeted at lay people who want to deepen their understanding of scripture, church history, philosophy and theology.  EFM is offered by many parishes, and I graduated from the program about 10 years ago at St. Margaret’s.

Like many, I had been a devoted church member for decades — worshiping, serving, and taking on leadership roles over the years.  But also like many, my understanding of Christianity’s history and development was somewhat shallow.  I wanted to change that and explore my faith in depth.  If you harbor that same yearning, EFM may be for you!

EFM’s first year focuses on the Old Testament; the New Testament fills the second year, church history the third, and philosophy and theology the fourth.  And the program is not for the faint-hearted.  There is lots of reading and some writing, but no tests!  Participants follow a proscribed curriculum, typically meet weekly as a group, and are led by trained mentors.

And when you study the Old and New Testaments, you don’t just read scripture.  You will learn who wrote what, their various sources, and about the scholarly debates over the meaning of our scriptures (Yes, committees decided things way back then even as they do now.).  You will learn new techniques for discerning what passages may mean.  All of this will deepen your faith some days, and profoundly challenge it on others.

My knowledge of church history was the weakest before taking EFM, and that year was most revealing.  Oh my, the tussles the church lived through, the evil it spawned in some cases, the hypocrisy.  But somehow the heart of our faith – love — survived.  My background in philosophy was pretty strong upon entering EFM, so I could help my fellow students with Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Descartes, Hume, Spinoza, etc.  But my background in theology was weak, and my fellow students helped me.  Therein lies the value in participating in a group.

You also will be asked to write a spiritual biography.  This task had great meaning for me, as I was forced to reflect on how my faith had developed, its twists and turns, the events and people who shaped me.  And one of the core elements  of EFM is the development of skills for theological reflection.  Participants learn to think theologically by examining their own beliefs, the relationship of those beliefs to our culture, scripture and the traditions of our faith.

Your experience in EFM will be determined by how seriously you take the work, the skill of your mentors, and the chemistry with your fellow students.  But I heartily recommend the program to all who want to get more serious about their faith and explore their calling as a light for Christ.

For more information on EfM, contact our Diocesan EfM Coordinator, Meg Kimble at meg.kimble@verizon.net, and visit the EfM website.

Lutheran and Episcopal Congregations Form Federation as ‘Lutherpalians’

Two North Baltimore Churches Take Next Step in Their Partnership

BALTIMORE – Three years after first entering into an unusual inter-denominational partnership of joint ministry and service to the community, two mainline Protestant churches in North Baltimore – one Episcopal, one Lutheran – have federated to become one combined congregation.  The church’s members now call themselves “Lutherpalians.”

The Church of the Nativity and Holy Comforter becomes the first such Lutheran-Episcopal federated congregation in Maryland and one of only a dozen or so of such partnerships that have been formed across the nation.

The two congregations first partnered in 2015, at a time when the former Church of the Nativity, Cedarcroft was approached by The Lutheran Church of the Holy Comforter, its neighbor a half-mile south on York Road in Govans. The Lutheran congregation faced unsustainable costs to maintain an aging, deteriorating church building made worse by declining attendance. While Nativity didn’t face the same building or financial challenges, it recognized the need to increase the number of people worshipping there.

There were some inevitable glitches in bringing together two disparate church families, explained the Rev. T. Stewart Lucas, who was formally called to be the founding Pastor of the newly federated church at a congregational meeting Sunday.

“But it didn’t take long for us to realize that we truly are better together,” said Pastor Lucas. “There is new energy and a spirit of excitement. New members have arrived. Attendance on Sundays has more than doubled. The singing is more robust, more volunteers have stepped up to offer help and more people come to coffee hour to connect with others and share ideas.”

He noted that one member had characterized the partnership as “one big mash-up,” adding that “you wouldn’t be able to walk in the church on any given Sunday and know who was Episcopalian and who was Lutheran. We’re all there, participating in the liturgy, coming to coffee hour, washing dishes in the kitchen and sending our kids to Sunday School. It’s everybody doing things together.

Since the partnership was first launched three years ago, Holy Comforter’s pastor, the Rev. David W. Eisenhuth, was called to a Lutheran parish in Hagerstown, where his skills in developing creative partnerships will be critical. To maintain a Lutheran “presence” at worship, a retired Lutheran minister, the Rev. Donald L. Burggraf, was recruited to serve as pastoral associate.

Pastor Lucas credited the bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for permitting this experimental partnership to move forward. Already, other congregations considering similar partnerships, both locally and nationally, have reached out for advice and guidance.

“We want to be helpful to other congregations willing to discern whether they should partner with another congregation. We have lots to share from our successes and challenges,” he said. “We can’t solve all the problems ourselves, but we can be a model of how different groups can come together and be fruitful.”

From the Archives: Bishop Wittingham’s observations regarding Harper’s Ferry in 1859

By Mary Klein, diocesan archivist

In some circles, John Brown’s raid on a federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, on October 16-18, 1859, made him into a martyr. But contemporary abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison called his revolutionary plan “misguided, wild and apparently insane.” Brown had tried to attract Frederick Douglas to join his plot as a liaison with slaves, and to then become the President of a “Provisional Government” but Douglas declined, saying, “An attack on the federal government would array the whole country against us. You will never get out alive.” Brown believed that slaves would flock to his side in open revolt, and he would sweep down the Appalachia Mountains, gathering supporters as he went. He said, “When I strike, the bees will swarm.”

 

 

While the shocking events in Harper’s Ferry were going on, the General Convention was meeting in Richmond, Virginia, and Bishop William Whittingham wrote daily to his wife. He detailed the dramas taking place in the House of Bishops, and on October 19, wrote, “The Virginia War is probably better known to you than to us. The excitement here is fast subsiding. It has served to show me how very rotten, even here, is the ground on which public security rests. From the greatest to the least, all felt thoroughly uneasy lest the ramifications of the contemptable plot which has fizzled out a hundred miles off, should have spread beneath the surface of society at this distance, and be threatening domestic treason and general insurrection under the seeming quiet of the undisturbed face of things. It will make all the South more bitter than ever against the North.”

 

The next day he wrote, “The insurrection is again exciting more attention. A young officer just returned showed me this morning a specimen of the pike. (He said 9,000 from the horse wagon loads; but two papers say more probably) 1,500 were found stored away together with many more of Sharp’s rifles. The pike was a really formidable weapon, and the worst of it is, it must have been made in the North to be used by Negroes here, when raised.”

 

By his letter of October 22, the events at Harper’s Ferry were not even mentioned, merely the day-to-day debates and actions of General Convention. But John Brown’s raid on a federal arsenal changed the course of American history. Before the raid, leading politicians wanted to believe that somehow the divisions between North and South would eventually lead to compromise, but John Brown’s actions terrified Southerners with thoughts of open slave rebellion and radicalizing many Northerners. Bishop Whittingham’s words that Brown’s actions would “make all the South more bitter than ever against the North” were prophetic indeed.

From the Archives: Claggett Center

By Mary Klein, diocesan archivist

From the beginning of his Episcopate in 1944, Bishop Noble Powell dreamed of having a place where the whole diocese could meet for conferences, study, retreats and camps, thus developing a family spirit within the diocese. A piece of property near Reisterstown was purchased for this purpose in 1947, but was soon sold because the cost to make the property suitable would have cost nearly $50,000. In 1950, the Buckingham School Foundation offered their school property in Frederick County to the diocese. The Buckingham School had existed from 1890-1944, and consisted of 290 acres, a working dairy farm, and school buildings. The Buckingham School Foundation even offered $30,000 to the diocese to help put the buildings in working order, so on November 30, 1950, the whole property was deeded to the diocese. By February, 1952, the Center was ready enough for the clergy conference to be held there; in addition to Diocesan conferences and camps, the facility was used by 4-H and Boy Scout groups.

 

In 1955, Bp. Noble Powell received a letter from a woman who had taken her daughter to summer camp at the Clagett Center, saying she was shocked to see “three negro girls” there as campers. Indignant that she had never been informed that there was “integration of the races” taking place at camp, she asked if the bishop could insure that in the future, “our children will sleep with those of their own race”. The bishop’s reply tells us a great deal about his own beliefs and struggles. Saying he was raised in the Deep South (He was born in Alabama in 1891), and understood the problems and the traditions of segregation, he said, nevertheless, “I know the inheritance, and at the same time, I know what is laid upon me as one who tried to follow Jesus Christ.”

 

Clarifying the position of the diocese and of himself, he continued, “The policy at Claggett is consonant with the tradition long established in the diocese, where in Church gatherings there has been no distinction, certainly in the more than a quarter of a century that I have known this beloved diocese…When Claggett policy was being formed, no question was ever raised as to what approach, other than the Christian approach, would be made to the use of the facilities. From the beginning there has been no segregation… We have tried to make Claggett Center the spiritual center for all, and we have tried to put Jesus Christ at the center of the Center.”

 

Addressing the bigger problem of racial problems in America, the bishop continued, “What disturbs me most of all, as I look at this problem of race, is the fact that we, in the Church, have not been leaders as we should have been, in solving the situation, but too often have left it to civil authorities to initiate what we should have taken in hand. In my judgment, we shall never be able to solve the question of race relationships by law. Only the application of the principles of Jesus Christ planted and growing in our hearts gives us any hope at all.”

A statement from our bishop on recent gun violence

Dear People of Christ,
Gun violence is now striking our people dead in rapid succession. Last Friday, in response to the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre – the largest mass killing of Jewish citizens in our nation’s history – I joined with our governor, senators, and other governmental and faith leaders at the Jewish Community Center in Baltimore to be in solidarity with the victims and their families, to pray together, and to express our love and care for each other.
Our people are dying. No region, no community, is immune to the spreading virus of violence. There have been mass shootings in Florida and Kentucky. Two days ago twelve people were struck dead by an active shooter in a night club in California. And just yesterday two people were shot, one of them killed, on the campus of one of our two Episcopal historically black colleges in the country – Voorhees College in South Carolina.
People are carrying guns to protect themselves, in the hopes of protecting others. This will surely lead to more death. Our people are dying at the hands of armed citizens. We cannot continue to allow the second amendment to supersede the second commandment of making for ourselves any idols. Nor the sixth commandment against murder. Nor the baptismal promise we make to seek and serve Christ in all persons.
We must pray, we must vote, we must advocate. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. But this, my people, I know: prayer works. Taking time to set your intentions on Christ, on true love for neighbor, and on treasuring every one of God’s people, does matter. Without it we are lost in despair. To pray in love, rather than going to get a gun (or more guns, or more lethal firearms) in fear, works. It grounds and surrounds us in love and calls us to work for the betterment of our society.
Pray intentionally. Pray. And then ACT in love, not fear, from that prayer.
In Christ’s love,
+Eugene
A statement from our bishop on recent gun violence. You can find resources for prayer, liturgy and action, as well as a public statement from Bishops United Against Gun Violence, at (http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org/). For The Episcopal Church advocacy resources and opportunities, see The Episcopal Public Policy Network  (advocacy.episcopalchurch.org) and Maryland Episcopal Public Policy Network. Please join together in your communities and pray, discern, act. #buagv Episcopalians Against Gun Violence #CommunityofLove #notfear #benotafraid #love #pray