The Education for Ministry group at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church has been ongoing for about 10 years and calls students from many denominations, not just Episcopal.

The purpose of Education for Ministry is to help each person to define and be more effective in whatever ministry one has in the community. Some perhaps will occur within the individual congregations and some will perhaps occur out in the community. St. Peter’s actively seeks people of other denominations because people from different backgrounds really enrich the whole process. Anyone with an inquiring mind and faith commitment of any sort is welcome.

The Education for Ministry program began with a vision of enrolling a few hundred students. Within a few years it developed into a program reaching several thousand students with groups around the globe. In addition to Education for Ministry groups in the United States, Education for Ministry can be found in Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the Bahamas, Hong Kong, Italy and Switzerland. In the United States more than 22,000 people have completed the full four years.

Participants in the Education for Ministry program study the entire sweep of the Christian tradition from the earliest period to the present. Participants learn the disciplines of biblical exegesis and interpretation, systematic theology, church history, ethics, liturgics and scetical theology.

The course of study includes the following: The first year — the Old Testament: an overview of the history of Israel, the Book of Genesis. The second year — the New Testament: Greek culture, Roman Empire, Judaism and the Second Temple, Galilee, biblical criticism and the Gospels. The third year — church history, the early church fathers, the Apologists, and on through the reformation to the Industrial Revolution, John Wesley and the Methodist Church. The fourth year — theological choices, 19th-century Anglicanism, American church history, the rise of science, the rise of fundamentalism, the liturgical movement, and other 21st-century challenges.

Mary McKeever is a regular contributor of religion news.