Every Tuesday night, for two hours or more, 13 parishioners gather in the Angel Room to wrestle with questions of faith.
These strenuous sessions last for 36 weeks over four years. The program is called Education for Ministry, or EfM, a theology curriculum that includes some three hours of required reading each week.
The group is very much a team. Arlene Bullard, the mentor, guides and referees the discussion.
A recent warm-up exercise was a brief reading from the prologue of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” In April, as Nature stirs, “Thanne longen folke to goon on pilgrimages …”
“Why do the pilgrims set forth?” the reader asks. “Why do we go to church?”
Somebody answers, “We are seeking God in community — and in one another.”
The class turns to the week’s reading: Episcopal theologian Verna Dozier’s “The Dream of God: A Call to Return.”
The discussion raises questions of gender inequality. Not long ago, somebody notes, women couldn’t even serve on the vestry.
“Then how did the work get done?” one of the women asks, to laughter.
Further along, a team member tells a story about a Japanese-American church in California whose parishioners were sent to internment camps at the outbreak of World War II. An African-American parish maintained the church until the Japanese-Americans returned.
The group explores the lessons in that story until Arlene calls for everybody to split into three groups to come up with language for a collect about it. After a lively back-and-forth, a new collect emerges:
“God who lifts up the least of these, we pray that we would be responsive to those in need, so that justice may prevail. Amen.”
Are you interested in participating in a future EfM experience? Join us Sunday, June 10, at noon for a brief information meeting.
Photo: Back row from left, Jennifer Goodnow, Carol Hamlin, Rick Hamlin, Tom Phillips, Gregory Bryant, Anne O’Loughlin, Willeen Smith and Elsie Hall; front row, Ursula Moran, Juanita Pratt, Arlene Bullard, Kris Ishibashi and Stephanie Eads.