After 4 years and more than 600 hours...

EfM (Education for Ministry) is done. It took 4 years and well more than 600 hours of classroom and prep time, but last night was my final class. Take me out of the oven; I am officially done.

If you detect an element of relief in my voice it's because I just got back two evenings every week (one for class and one for reading) for 9 months out of the year. That really adds up. There's also a bit of sadness, which will only really set in late in August when the group reassembles, welcomes new members, and begins the next year of study. I'll also miss the people. We've talked about a lot of sensitive issues and taken risks to speak from the heart about our personal struggles, beliefs, joys, fears, the whole range (or at least most of it). I miss spending this intense time with those who've graduated before me. I'll miss the folks I'm studying with now, and I'm sure that my absence will be noted as well. That's just part of the process.

Four years of studying scripture, church history, and theology then attempting to apply it all to reflections on the reality of day-to-day life has been wonderful. I feel that I've grown spiritually and intellectually as a result. The program isn't perfect, but the overall experience has certainly been a positive one and a good use of my time. I'm not sure that I have many more "answers" to the big questions of faith than when I started, but that wasn't the real goal. What I have is more ways of asking the questions and, hopefully, a set of more developed and thoughtful ways of exploring the possible answers.

If you have a similar chance to explore your own faith in a trusted community with a good mentor (and our mentor, Nancy, is excellent), then I encourage you to do so. It only makes the journey that much more interesting.

"Thank you" to all of you who shared the EfM experience with me. I've learned from each and every one of you and I'm grateful for your generosity, insight, courage, and compassion. You have helped me grow.