Celebrating Carole Shriver's Education for Ministry Career
An interview with Carole
When was your first encounter with the Education for Ministry (EfM) program? What was going on in your life at that time?
My first encounter was 1985; St. John’s priest, Rev. Chris Brdlik was starting the first EfM group here in 1985. I wanted to begin with that first cohort, but didn’t have the money. In 1989 the second cohort began and my maternal grandmother paid my tuition. I wanted to learn how to teach the children entrusted to my care at church. I had been deepening my understanding of scripture through a propers study group for Sunday school teachers. We studied the gospel lessons for the month and discussed how to present them to our students and this cultivated a love of scripture and a desire to know more. EfM became my opportunity for a deeper dive.
Who were the people that shepherded you through your first experiences of EfM?
Rev. Chris Brdlik was the rector at the time. Cotton Richardson (cradle Episcopalian from Greenville, SC, called “Pappy”) was in my cohort and was my “study buddy.” The EfM group itself is essential, there is a bond through the spiritual autobiographies. You’re on a journey together; it is a community that is formed very much like the early church (EfM regulates group size limitations to 6-12 people). The first two years were at St. John’s with Chris, then I had to finish the program with the mentor, Barbara Tipler, from Trinity Staunton.
How long have you been an EfM mentor? What was your inspiration for taking on leadership with EfM?
At the end of my fourth year (1994), I was invited to be a co-mentor the following year. One year later (1996), I began mentoring that same group on my own. I continued to mentor folks with whom I was a student in those early years.
The inspiration to take on leadership came by way of an answered prayer, in which I was wondering how to find this type of community to be a part of moving forward after four years of EfM. Then came the invitation to co-mentor, which led to mentorship in earnest. That is how it all began.
Say more about the community that you loved and how it nourished you.
The dedication and commitment to exploring the study of scripture and church history was the foundational attraction, but the center piece was “theological reflection” (a practice done each week in addition to the other studies undertaken). Theological Reflection was a way to apply all the things learned in the other facets of EfM into one’s daily life. The final step of Theological Reflection is “insights and implications” (what has been validated or changed your thoughts as a result of this theological reflection; and ok, so what? What will you do now? What will you do differently?)
Putting action to reflection is the point of the insights and implications of the Theological Reflection. This is what makes EfM different from bible study or Sunday school, the theological reflection piece of the program is critical. The ultimate goal is to let that reflection impact and inform how you live the rest of your life (with God as part of the process), no longer, “What do I think?” but now, “What do God and I think and do about this?”
Since I have integrated the process of theological reflection, it has become a part of who I am and how I live.
How has your faith grown and developed after having spent time in EfM?
At first, I had no idea of the depth and complexity of scripture. I was basically a New Testament kid from listening to sermons I heard in church. In EfM I realized there was so much that was not discussed about scripture by just sitting in church on a Sunday morning (i.e. source criticism and its study). EfM helped me appreciate a deeper exploration of scripture beyond listening to a sermon.
Additionally, each week in EfM someone leads a worship portion of the program. One of the most formative experiences of this worship came in my third year when Pres Manning shared a book, “A Doorway in Time” by Herbert O’Driscoll. This book was about Herb (who became a friend of mine), who grew up as an Anglican in Cork, Ireland. This experience introduced a stream of Celtic spirituality that has influenced me ever since. Eventually, I was able to invite Herb to St. John’s to speak to the parish and was able to take two pilgrimages with him. This started my love for Celtic spirituality and led to my growth and love for the Celtic authors and spiritual leaders.
Another piece of my faith development has been the sense of community and communal prayer that EfM nurtures. This is a safe place to question, doubt, and reaffirm beliefs; it is not just a private journey, but a journey with others who are safe and act as a sounding board. The confidentiality of the community makes it a safe place for people to both doubt and to grow. It is the place where I realized the difference between vocation and profession. My life was given to me as a gift to serve others, and EfM helped me discern this. I am a teacher by way of profession; EfM helped me realize that teaching is also my vocation. I am blessed that my profession and vocation have been one and the same; teaching is an integral part of who I am. Over time I have come to ascribe to St. Francis’ teaching, not to use words unless necessary, but rather let my life as a follower of The Way be the example.
I know that EfM has changed my entire life through all the things I have been sharing here today. It has shifted my life’s focus to being God centered, and not me centered.
What would you say are the greatest gifts of the EfM experience?
Definitely community, a faith community; the power of prayer; being aware of the presence of God within community; friendships, lasting friendships that go way beyond the 4 years of the program. The friendship grows with each class and person that comes to be a part of EfM. Another gift is that EfM is a place to explore and discover your vocation (everyone has a ministry, not just the ordained. It may be as a mother, or the driver of a homebound parishioner, or whatever your day requires; it is a response to our baptismal covenant).
What chapter of ministry are you discerning in your life now that you are retiring from EfM mentoring?
I really feel I am being called to work on the parish Sunday school curriculum and I feel called with what energy I have to continuing the work of Sacred Ground, Becoming Beloved Community, and The Way of Love: Joining God in the Neighborhood. I would like to move into deeper connections with the community based on what I have studied in the Sacred Ground curriculum. I would like to have relationships which expand the conversation beyond our parish community to include people of other backgrounds and life experiences.
I am interested in learning more about the Native American spiritual traditions. The connections with the earth, and the spirituality of all things. The beauty of the earth has spiritual value more than we appreciate. I find this to be true in Celtic spirituality and now in exploring Native American spiritual traditions.
What parting gift or advice would you give to future students of EfM?
Embrace the community; embrace your questions; embrace your doubts; see the shaking of your foundations as a gift. Some people go through a “dark night of the soul,” but it is worth it.
To learn more about Education for Ministry, visit their website or contact Marty Siebken (through the church office).
We will be celebrating Carole’s 33 years of EfM ministry on Sunday, June 12. Please join us for worship that day at 10:00 a.m. followed by a festive reception.