NORMAN — As the new director of educational ministries at St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Norman, Erin Floyd began her work already appreciating the church’s approach to Christian education.
That includes the belief that there is plenty of room for questions and doubt in a person’s faith journey, the exploration is never-ending and mystery can be embraced instead of literal interpretation.
So when Floyd was appointed to the position earlier this year, it was like coming home.
“I love the vitality of this place,” Floyd said. “Education is always taking place here, in ways that are implicit and explicit. The benefit of this church is that we don’t offer Christian education that is full of answers, but we allow people to explore questions and the mystery of who we are as people of faith.”
Floyd previously served St. Stephens as youth director and director of children’s ministries. She earned her undergraduate degree in religious education from Oklahoma City University, one of a handful of United Methodist-related universities with a specialization in Christian education, and she is working toward her master’s degree from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary.
While she is still in the candidacy process to be ordained as a deacon in the United Methodist Church, she has felt drawn toward working in Christian education.
“I’m here to facilitate conversations in Christian education — to help people be in relationship with one another and to grow. And in the process, I grow as much as they do,” she said.
Floyd oversees a multitude of Christian education opportunities at St. Stephen’s. The adult education model — called Seminary for Life for its commitment to life-long learning — offers classes throughout the week, as well as special events.
The educational offerings strive to reflect one or more of four themes: “Claiming the Story — The Bible,” “Thinking Theologically — Christian Life and Faith,” “Nurturing Spirituality — Everyday Sacredness” and “Doing Justice — Mission and Justice Ministry.”
Four adult classes on Sunday mornings present a variety of topics. The Theology of Welcome class looks at basic theological understandings.
The class was originally created for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people who were drawn to the church because of its welcoming stance. The course has morphed into a setting for all seeking an introduction to St. Stephen’s.
The Seekers course focuses on in-depth theological questions. A current study called “Painting the Stars” looks at science and religion.
The Challenges and Choices class studies contemporary issues taking place locally, nationally or worldwide. Outside speakers often present a topic.
The fourth class, Listening for God, has a theme of prayer and spirituality.
Each fall and spring, St. Stephen’s offers weekday evening classes on a variety of topics. Roundtable events are offered at different times throughout the year as well, often featuring speakers from different faiths.
Activities outside the church walls, such as an initiative in which church members mentor people who are searching for employment, also fall under the mission of Christian education.
Floyd oversees youth and children’s activities as well, giving her an opportunity to create intergenerational themes.
“An important part of Christian education is to look at what we’re offering people throughout their life spans,” she said.
Floyd is following in the footsteps of Kay Antinoro, who served in that capacity at St. Stephen’s for 33 years before retiring earlier this year. Floyd said she has big shoes to fill but is pleased to be at a place where education is highly valued and all are welcome to participate.
Floyd is the daughter of a minister and is bringing her own approach to Christian education.
The Rev. Amy Venable, senior pastor at St. Stephen’s, said Floyd brings a wonderful blend of leadership, theological knowledge and imagination to the position.
“Erin brings not only previous experience with St. Stephen’s to her current role but also a lifetime of having grown up in the church,” Venable said. “As a preacher’s kid, there was a 50-50 chance she would have either turned her back on organized religion all together or jumped head-first into a life that was immersed in the church.
“She has come to a place that is somewhat different from the congregations in which she was shaped as a young United Methodist in north Texas, and she has assumed a leadership position that I know makes her pastor dad extremely proud.
“It’s good to have someone on staff who has interacted with lots of different types of congregations. We celebrate diversity here, and theological diversity is part of what keeps us spiritually sensitive and aware.”
St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church is on the corner of Brooks Street and McGee Drive. For more information, visit ststephensnorman.org.