by Nancy Sollenberger Heishman
For over 30 years, the Education for Shared Ministry (EFSM) program has been nurturing and equipping ministers and laity together in small Anglo churches. Now the program is being made available to Spanish-speaking congregations. The unique design of EFSM offers opportunities for ministers in training and lay leaders to discern goals and objectives together and to encourage one another in sharpening their skills while learning about the Christian faith and ministries of the church. The program’s strength is in equipping the entire congregation as they support their set-apart ministers in meeting the educational and theological requirements for credentialing.
In the Pacific Southwest District, pastors David and Rita Flores of the Cristo Sion congregation chose to finish the ministry training they had begun through SeBAH-CoB by participating in EFSM. Six lay leaders joined the couple in a March weekend orientation in which they familiarized themselves with the program, set goals for their first learning unit, and dedicated themselves as a congregation to the process. During these past few months, they have explored Brethren beliefs and theology in greater depth through book studies, heritage-focused congregational outreach projects in the neighborhood, and by enriching their congregational life through giving and finding new meaning in the practice of Brethren ordinances such as love feast. If all goes according to schedule, they will graduate from the program in the summer of 2018.
In the Shenandoah District, a congregation with almost a decade of informal relationship with the district was recently welcomed officially and is exploring participation in the EFSM program. Pastors Julio and Sonia Argueta of Iglesia Pentecostal Buenas Nuevas Church of the Brethren in Waynesboro, Va., lead a warm and vibrant fellowship that shares the building with the Anglo Brethren of Waynesboro. The Church Planting Team of the district is giving support as together they explore the prospect of participating in the EFSM program.
SeBAH-CoB classes continue as the alfa cohort finishes a preaching course with Mennonite professor, Byron Pellecer. The beta cohort is studying the Theology of Pastoral Ministry with Tony Brun. Both courses are totally online. Additionally, video conference technology gives students in the preaching course opportunity to discuss in more depth the fundamental principles of sermon preparation. It is obvious that all the students greatly enjoy the interaction between Californian, Pennsylvanian, and Puerto Rican Brethren and the Colombian Mennonite students in the course.
This year as part of satisfying the program requirements for attendance at Annual Conference, three SeBAH-CoB students were present in Grand Rapids.
-- Nancy Sollenberger Heishman is coordinator of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership’s Seminario Biblico Anabautista Hispano--de la Iglesia de los Hermanos (SeBAH-CoB).