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eMinistry offers lay training through telephone classes

While eMinistry began as a way to provide teleclasses to train lay Episcopalians, the Rev. Elizabeth Hasen envisions ecumenical expansion and outreach to rural, as well as urban, communities.

Teleclasses are taught to groups of people gathered by telephone in a conference call. 

Elizabeth Hasen leads eMinistry Network

Elizabeth Hasen

In her 10 years as rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Louisville, Ky., Elizabeth found lay people needed more resources and practical expertise and training for outreach and spiritual ministries. 

Near the end of her ministry there, she took a telephone class with more than 50 others around the world to learn to become a personal coach.  She saw teleclasses as cost-effective lay training.

When she moved to Spokane in January 2005, she combined the need and the teaching approach to develop eMinistry, now a nonprofit organization.

To support herself while she builds eMinistry, she does supply preaching at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Ephrata and sells real estate, which gives her a flexible schedule that allows her to continue eMinistry.

Elizabeth grew up Episcopalian in Manhattan and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Amherst College in 1977.  She wrote a thesis on the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church, but worked four years in social work and four in publishing before she thought of going to seminary.  As a pre-teen, she thought of being a minister, but didn’t think it was possible.

In 1986, she began the ordination process in Vermont, while working a few years with Habitat for Humanity and with a community center.  In 1988, she went to Virginia Theological Seminary, graduating in 1991.  Her field work included assisting at an African-American parish in Washington, D.C., working with Hospice in northern Virginia and assisting the rector of three villages in Newfoundland.

Ordained at the Episcopal Cathedral in Burlington, Vt., she was assistant there from 1991 until she went to Louisville in 1994.

In 2003, she trained as a personal coach, working one-to-one to help people to achieve goals, sometimes in person and sometimes over the phone.

In Sept. 2005, she realized she could offer teleclasses to help lay people improve skills for specialized ministries.

“While seminaries offer long-term training focused on Scripture and theology,” she said, “eMinistry gives short-term training on practical matters.”

For example, in Kentucky, a parishioner organized the congregation of 120 people to collect school supplies that the 30 teachers at the local elementary school were normally expected to provide.

Elizabeth thought it would have been helpful if she had known of other churches doing similar projects, so she could connect the member doing the project with someone who had experience.

“Rectors lack the time to research such information to support projects and ideas that lay people develop,” she said.

Teleclasses are a way to do it.

Elizabeth goes across the United States by checking websites to find out who is doing what in Episcopal churches and then contacting those people by email.

Through the searches, she recruits people to teach teleclasses and works with them to develop hour-long classes.

“It’s cost effective lay education, giving people in the pews information they need when they need it,” she said.

“We have an incredible loss of intellectual capital in ministry resources.  We ask people to spend time to prepare and lead workshops at annual diocesan conventions or national events.  They give the class once, and that’s it,” she said. 

So Elizabeth set up a website and created the eMinistry website at www.eministry.org to describe the program and list classes.

 Teleclasses start and end with prayer, and Elizabeth encourages teachers to tell how their faith relates to what they are teaching.

With endorsement from Bishop Jim Waggoner of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane, she incorporated eMinistry as a nonprofit in Nov. 2005—on her 50th birthday, she noted. This past March, eMinistry received tax-exempt status.

By December, she had some teachers. Bob Runkle, diocesan outreach coordinator and member at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Coeur d’Alene, developed a test class, which he offered in March 2006 for eight people in eight dioceses. 

She pays teachers $35, so classes need to have three students, paying $12, to cover the cost.

From September 2006 to May 2007, 187 different people attended 31 classes.  The next classes will be held September to November.  She plans to offer classes six months of the year.

“Marketing is the challenge,” said Elizabeth. 

She promotes classes by emailing dioceses to have them announce the classes and by doing displays at diocesan and national conventions.

Elizabeth described some of the teachers and topics:

• The communications officer for the diocese of Southern Ohio led classes on congregational communication plans and writing press releases.

• The development officer of the Chicago diocese taught a class on preparing a narrative budget.

• A college chaplain led a class on parish-based campus ministry.

• A New Jersey author offered a class on forgiveness.

Other classes have been on substance abuse, the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, congregational health ministry, Christian formation, labyrinth meditation and lay preaching.

The eMinistry website provides a web page for each class, including the class outline and links to websites with other resources. 

A national Presbyterian Church (USA) staff person in Louisville learned about eMinistry and asked Elizabeth to help her develop classes for Presbyterian women.

“I think the idea would be attractive to people in many denominations, connecting people on topics they feel passionate about,” Elizabeth explained.

“We don’t know what people in the next congregation or diocese are doing.  People are hungry for the chance to connect,” she said. 

From preaching at Ephrata, she also knows of needs rural congregations have for educational programs.

She sees eMinistry as a way to provide accessible, affordable education.

Because she does the ministry part-time, she needs volunteers to help with registration, reminders and follow-up.

For information, call 456-7344.