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Readers and Worship in the Church of England – C. Headley

May 25, 2015

RAWITCOEMost importantly, she argues that Readers should be used out of choice, as complementary to the ordained ministry, and alongside it, not as those whose only role is a pseudo-clerical gap-filling ministry.

Mind you, that is how the office started out in modern times. Whilst the rector led services in the parish church, readers worked in the mission halls.

Using Readers in liturgy is recognizing the distinctive contribu­tion of lay ministers. It is a complementary ministry bringing the laos into the focal point of church life—the worship. Not only does it act as a focus, but also as a role-model, or flagship, because these lay leaders are trained, theologically aware, and recognized by the wider church.

Some limit Readership to the teaching and preaching which is its distinctive function. The call has been to pull back from the diversity that has been developing, and encourage an order of theologically academically trained preachers.

Others encourage the diversity as being a development in Readership which responds to the needs of the church in our time. The office can be a vehicle for recognizing what God is doing in the church, in using the ministry of the laity, and bringing much blessing through it. The diversity also enriches the prime role of preaching, teaching, and leading worship—by ensuring that the ministry is grounded in knowledge of the pastoral needs of the people, and the lives that they lead day by day. Accor­dingly we need not only to recognize the potential of the diversity, but also to train and equip according to the gifts of individuals.

As long as they don’t expect us to be Jacks and Jills of all trades.

Don’t make us deacons. it is the perspective, or world-view that arises from secular involvement that benefits the Reader’s ministry. Having someone in the ministry team whose sphere of daily work and life revolves around the secular thought-patterns, vocabulary, values, and contacts of a non-church environment, makes a valuable contribution. Readers bring into a team the wisdom gained from living out the Christian life in the world. Being trained and informed they then apply theological reflection to what they experience, and can therefore bring fresh insights into the teaching and preaching. In this way the faith can be com­municated with a more direct and relevant expression. The lay-ness of Readers is their strength and virtue—not their shortcoming!

I often feel the need to go somewhere else to worship. Where Readers are constantly ministering in a non-eucharistic setting, because of the restraints of their office, and the demands of the situation, their own worship needs must be taken into account. It is important that they have the opportunity of being able to attend eucharistic worship, and indeed to participate on occasions. This is part of a wider need to ensure that Readers have a spiritual home, or base, from which to minister. As with any minister a Reader’s spiritual life needs care, so that any subsequent ministry is healthy.

Most Readersare giving of their time on top of demanding jobs and family commitments. So care needs to be taken in working out realistic time boundaries, which will enable them to have enough time for family, friends, recreation, and personal space.

I regularly preach in three different churches but any preaching and teaching ministry which does not reflect something of the pastoral needs of the people and the community in which they live is in danger of being over-intellectual and out of touch with those who listen. So the need to be anchored in some way to the pastoral side of parish work is becoming apparent.

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