The School For Diaconal Formation (SDF) aims to equip postulants and candidates for the diaconate with the skills and sensitivities that their vocation demands. The School concentrates on teaching the narrative of God’s relations with human beings. It stresses developing skill in theological thinking and in applying such thinking practically. And it regards with utmost seriousness the process of spiritual formation through worship, community, individual prayer, and direction.
The SDF consists of a three-year curriculum of courses, spiritual formation and practical experience. With the growing emphasis on the ministry of the diaconate in the Episcopal Church beginning around the mid-1980s, dioceses found they needed to provide their own education and formation programs for people accepted as postulants. Most postulants for the diaconate are already fully involved in a career or are retired. Some have family commitments. In each case, moving from their present location and attending a school at some distance is not an option. Local programs, therefore, provide the necessary preparation for the diaconate.
The School’s directors work with each student to formulate a Learning Plan that includes three weekends of formation within the diocese each year, online and intensive classes taken at Seabury-Western Divinity School and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP), and special conferences and trainings that can fulfill Association of Episcopal Deacons (AED) learning competencies. After the first year in the program students engage in field education. This hands-on experience most often takes place in a congregation, but other communities of Christian practice can and do provide appropriate environments for formation in the field.