Considering Reader Ministry?
The distinguishing characteristics of Reader Ministry
The Ministry Council of the Church of England has published Guidelines about Reader Ministry which are helpful in setting out the characteristics that the Church is looking for in its potential Readers. At its heart Reader Ministry is about an engagement in your life with the lively and life-giving nature of Scripture, and an enthusiasm to share and communicate this to other people.
Do not be daunted by the contents. At the outset, concentrate on the left hand column which sets out the things that selectors are looking at when potential Readers are chosen. They are looking for potential: openness and eagerness to learn, not what you have already done or learned. This is a brief summary of the key points:
- Candidates desire to learn from Scripture, tradition and the development of Christian thought.
- Candidates have a personal commitment to Christ.
- Candidates desire to grow closer to God through worship, prayer, Bible reading, study and reflection.
- Candidates have personal integrity, are self-aware and emotionally stable.
- Candidates are trustworthy, honest, approachable and a faithful member of the body of Christ.
- Candidates see collaboration as a hallmark of their membership of the body of Christ.
- Candidates have a sense of call to lay ministry motivated by a desire to serve.
What should you do if you feel you may be called in this way?
Reader Ministry is rooted in the Christian community, and each potential candidate needs the backing of his/her incumbent and the people of his/her church. This is a big and serioius commitment, needing prayer, careful reflection and time for exploration.
A sense of calling can feel a very fragile and tentative thing. You may feel shy about voicing it, but it is the only way to see whether it is going to take shape and whether this is the right time. Talk to your parish priest about how you feel. If you know other Readers, talk to them too. It also helps to talk to one or two members of your congregation who know you well, and see what they say. You could also talk to your Deanery Reader representative, or one of the Reader Wardens. Contact details are on the Readers' Executive page.
Come to an exploratory session at Church House, Rotherham. Contact Trish Stafford at Church House for information abou the next one. These are informal drop-in sessions for people exploring all forms of lay ministry. You can meet Readers and other lay ministers, find out about the training at the School of Ministry, and discuss how you feel. There is no requirement for a commitment on your part at this stage.
There are a number of books about vocation and Reader ministry. We would recommend:
Called or Collared, by Francis Dewar (SPCK)
Reader Ministry Explored, by Cathy Rowling and Paula Gooder (SPCK)
What do I do if this seems the right course of action?
You will need the consent of your incumbent and your PCC. You should try to get together a small 'link group' to be your support team in the parish. Their role is to give you encouragemen and helpful criticism during your training.