Theological Formation

Program for Theological Formation

The Program for Theological Formation trains persons to think and live theologically and ecclesially.

The Program forms persons to engage intentionally in the baptismal and eucharistic life of their congregations, and to help their congregations embody our Christian story in the world.

By enriching an understanding of the ministry of the whole Church, graduates of the program take active roles in their congregations and in the diocese to help the Church discern and engage in the ministry of Christ in the world.

The life of the Episcopal School for Ministry is a comprised of worship, fellowship, and study. We gather for prayer, learning, and mutual support. Each weekend that the School meets is structured by Morning and Evening Prayer, the Eucharist, and Compline. We share meals together, and we share our journeys of discipleship with each other. Many students cherish these weekends as a mini-retreat. The learning is challenging but accessible to all types of students. We have students with advanced academic backgrounds and others with very little educational experience after high school.

The Theological Formation program addresses the basic subjects of theology: Old and New Testaments; Tradition, including Anglican tradition; Theology; Sacraments; Spirituality; Liturgy; and Preaching. The program is a three year sequence comprised of three terms each year. Each term (Spring Summer, and Fall) is held on three weekends from Friday evening through Saturday afternoon. Each term begins with a Saturday only introductory session.

Students who wish to complete the entire three year sequence of ESM courses should plan to begin the fall term by taking the Spirituality course. With permission of the Dean, you may take single courses that are of particular interest to you.


Course Descriptions

Year One (Fall Term): Christian Spirituality
Dr. Donna Hawk-Reinhard, Instructor
Christian Spirituality explores the intimate relationship God has established with us and the variety of responses disciples have made to God's love over the years.  From the meaning of the word -- Spirituality -- the breath of life, the prayer of Israel, and the Church; from the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Desert Mothers and Fathers, and the Benedictine and Celtic roots of the Anglican tradition, we will immerse ourselves in Prayer Book spirituality and see spiritual practices that nurture and support the church's ministry in the 21st century.  This course serves as the introduction to the life of the school, and forms the basis on which the rest of the work of the school is built.
Year One (Spring Term): Old Testament
The Rev. Dr. Barbara Willock, Instructor
In order to understand what happened with Jesus, and what it means for you, us, and the world, you have to spend a lot of time with the Old Testament. This course allows the student to do just this. The student reads much of the Old Testament, and learns how to grasp what is being read. There is the opportunity to explore in more depth a particular theme that becomes central to the Christian faith. Here is a chance to engage the Bible with purpose, discipline, and with fellow learners.
Year One (Summer Term): New Testament
Dr. Ron Crown, Instructor
This class examines the world of the New Testament, Jesus and the Gospels, and Acts and the Epistles.
Year Two (Fall Term): Church History I
The Rev. Dr. Marshall Crossnoe, Instructor.
Year Two (Spring Term): Church History II
Dr. Donna Hawk-Reinhard, Instructor
What are the essentials of the Christian faith? How were they identified, developed, and articulated? What do the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds mean? These are the questions this course considers in depth and with a sense of how we answer them for today. The tradition of the Church is what is handed on from believer to believer, from local church to local church, as Christians gather to make new Christians and to celebrate their common life in communion. Come and learn what the first few centuries of the Church’s life give us as we renew our own sense of Christian identity and mission.
Year Two (Summer Term): Theology
The Rev. Dr. Dan Handschy, Instructor
Building on the biblical and historical work of the first two years, this course introduces the great themes of Christian doctrine: the Trinity, creation, sin and atonement, the Incarnation and ecclesiology. Salvation is framed in terms of participation in the divine life of the Trinity and the corporate life of the Church.
Year Three (Fall Term):  Preaching
The Rev. Dr. Barbara Willock, Instructor
One of the chief responsibilities of ministry is teaching the church its story and then helping the church keep that story straight.  Nowhere is this more visible than in the act of preaching.  Thus, satisfactory completion of the School's courses on Old and New Testament ~ or equivalent study of the Bible ~ and Theology are requirements for the preaching course.  Because preaching combines a number of disciplines ~ exegesis, creative writing, oral communication ~ the focus of the course is practical.  Two sermons are prepared and delivered by each student and positive feedback is given by the other students and faculty.  During the preparation of each sermon, the instructor is available for consultation and support.  Participation in the class by those who have not had the Old and New Testament and Theology courses as taught by the school is allowed only by prior approval of the Dean and Instructor
Year Three (Spring Term): Sacramental Theology.
The Rev. Dr. Dan Handschy, Instructor
This course expands on the concept introduced in the previous course of salvation as participation in the corporate life of the Church. The Church is understood as the continuation of the Incarnation and the Church's sacraments as aids to the divinization of the individual and the world.
Year Three (Summer Term): Liturgics
The Rev. Dr. Deb Goldfeder, Instructor
In this course, we approach the liturgy of the Church as a system of communication giving expression to the corporate life of the Church. The student will learn how to parse the various liturgies in a congregation, looking for the sign value of the various liturgical actions. The student will learn to plan a liturgy appropriate for a congregation based on that congregation's common ritual life, giving expression to the doctrines of the Church.

More Info

Contact ESM Dean, the Rev. Dr. Dan Handschy