Having been Director of Music here at Flitwick Church for just over eighteen months, I am delighted that I will now also be serving here as a Reader. I was licensed as a Reader in 2013 having trained alongside Lucy on the Eastern Region Ministry Course, so it’s lovely to be able to join the ministry team here as well as continuing to lead the music.
“So, what exactly is a Reader?”
The title ‘Reader’ is quite an unhelpful one really, but the best definition is probably that a Reader is a lay theologian. That probably doesn’t help much either! In some dioceses we’re called ‘Licensed Lay Ministers’ which is a bit clearer. Unlike priests and deacons (aka vicars, rectors or curates) we’re not ordained, but we are trained in theology and ministry and licensed by the Bishop to preach and serve within the diocese. Our qualifications are formally recognised by the Church of England (and Church in Wales) and if we move house we can easily be welcomed and licensed by the Bishop of wherever we move to. We are not paid for our work as Readers, although we can claim expenses. We also have our own ‘uniform’ – we wear a blue preaching scarf with our cassock and surplice, but you’re more likely to see me wearing an alb with the Reader’s badge on a blue ribbon.
OK, so what do you do?
Traditionally, the role of a Reader is to ‘preach, teach and lead worship’. I see this as my particular calling, but other readers may focus more on funeral ministry or pastoral work visiting the sick. Some Readers work as prison or hospital chaplains. Having studied theology for three years (part-time) we are equipped to preach sermons and lead non-sacramental worship. That means we can’t preside at the Eucharist, conduct weddings or baptisms (except in an emergency – but anyone can do that) or pronounce the blessing, but we can do most of the other things that clergy do. I particularly enjoy preparing and preaching sermons, planning and leading worship and teaching small study groups of all ages.