Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, has written an essay on theological education for the laity for Seabury Western Seminary:
Often, lay people and clergy tend to think of lay ministry, or even baptismal ministry, as the ministry done by the laity inside the Church. But the ministry of the laity mostly occurs outside of the church. While the roles lay people have assumed over the years as readers, Eucharistic ministers, lay preachers, pastoral visitors, vestry members and others, are very important roles in the life and worship of a congregation, most of our ministry is done in the context of our “secular” communities, our homes and our workplaces.
This is good, for we are doing God’s work in the world. The problem is that these important ministries go largely unsupported and unrecognized by the church. Often only we are aware that the ministry we do in our daily lives is done in response to our baptism and our call as a lay minister. Often only we know what our unique charism is, instead of bringing those gifts into the context of our Christian community where they can be affirmed and joined with other gifts in the Body of Christ for the purpose of intentional ministry. Just as lay members of search committees and commissions on ministry and standing committees affirm the charism of clergy and bishops, the clergy and bishops also have a responsibility to help the laity identify and use our charism. The larger responsibility of the laity is to claim our baptism as our life’s primary vocation and then to use our charism in our secondary vocations in God’s world.
As baptized lay persons, we are responsible to understand not only what our ministry is, what particular charism we bring to it, but also to know how we will “carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.” This takes some understanding, commitment and education.
The landscape of theological education in the Episcopal Church is changing. In the midst of that transition, we have the opportunity to emphasize the importance of educating lay people for ministry. With high-quality, flexible enrichment programs and continuing education, we can help the two million lay members of God’s Episcopal Church understand the promises we make at our baptism and why they are the most important promises we will make in our life.