It has been six years since our local formation began as the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast School for Ministry. In 2020, we graduated our first eight students (six priests, two deacons) and will graduate two more (one priest, one deacon) this June. We currently have eight students enrolled in the School for Ministry and have a new student joining us this Fall.
We underwent a significant move last year (2022) when we were welcomed into the rectory at St. Mary’s in Milton, Florida. We moved the School from St. Agatha’s, DeFuniak Springs, to better accommodate and expand our mission of providing both lay and clerical formation in an accessible location. We have been blessed to conduct School weekends in the rectory at St. Mary’s along with retreat weekends for the Episcopal Preaching Foundation preachers.
For our two students most recently ordained, this has been their first year of residential formation. Due to the constraints the pandemic leveraged, the Reverends Deborah Knight-Epps and Brad Clark were not able to enjoy all of the benefits of residential study and fellowship until this past year. They spoke to this reality at our convention in March noting their enjoyment and growth as a result of the time spent with other students in our monthly weekend gatherings.
Our scheduled weekends follow a basic pattern: we gather on Friday afternoon for fellowship and any needed one-to-one time with the dean. Then, the students prepare and eat dinner together, followed by a session in pastoral care with certified lay teachers Sue Rollins and Anita Ford. Saturday is a long day of scripture study along with systematic theology and ethics (or the primary subject for the year). The students prepare and eat all meals together and then close the day with vespers. Sunday mornings are set aside for liturgical theology and practicum along with attendance at worship with the St. Mary’s community with their priest-in-charge, the Rev. Matthew Dollhausen.
Our graduation this year for both lay leaders who will be canonically certified by Bishop Kendrick along with our two students who will graduate from our ministerial program (with a certificate from the Iona Collaborative, Seminary of the Southwest) will be on Saturday, June 24 at 2 p.m. at St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church located at 500 N Reus St, in Pensacola, Florida. I invite all those who have supported and prayed for our students to join us in this celebration.
If you are interested in learning more about the School for Ministry, please see our page on the Diocesan website: https://www.diocgc.org/school-for-ministry.
Or, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rev. Joy Blaylock, PhD
Dean, School for Ministry
Missioner for Discipleship