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Toby Hole

Director of Mission and Ministry

What is a Reader? 

Readers are licensed lay ministers in the Church of England. They are men and women who feel a calling to a ministry of preaching, teaching and leading congregations in non-sacramental worship. Readers are not ordained (which is why they do not celebrate holy communion, conduct marriages or baptise). Their ministry springs from the working out of the gospel in their daily lives. 

Readers hold their licence from the bishop. As well as taking part in Sunday worship many readers will also be active Christians in their communities and workplaces, visiting the sick, comforting the vulnerable and being Christ’s presence in the world. Some readers act as chaplains in schools and hospitals. 

The Ministry Council of the Church of England has published a formation framework for those who feel called to Reader ministry.

The qualities asked for might appear to better suit Superman or Wonderwoman, but don’t be put off by them. They are qualities that will grow in us throughout our ministry. The important thing is a mature Christian faith, a life of integrity and an eagerness and willingness to learn. 

How do I go about exploring Reader ministry? 

Reader ministry is rooted in the Christian community and each potential candidate needs the backing of his or her incumbent and the church in which they worship. Serving as a reader is a big commitment and requires prayer, 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 Oversight Minister 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.  

Each year in September a Celebration of Lay Ministries service is held at either Sheffield Cathedral or Doncaster Minster. At the same time there is held a vocations fair which will give you the opportunity of finding out more about Reader Ministry. 

You might also wish to read Reader Ministry Explored, by Cathy Rowling and Paula Gooder (SPCK). Borrow from the Resource Centre 

Once you have prayed about your calling and talked with wise friends, you should contact our vocations team who will tell you the next steps.

Find out about vocations

How do I train to be a Reader? 

If you are considering Reader Ministry then you should first attend our Foundations Course which runs from September to July each year. As well as introducing you to the study of Scripture, Mission and the Christian Faith, Foundations gives candidates an opportunity to reflect upon their sense of calling in the company of others. At the end of the Foundations Course, if you and the vocations team feel that Reader ministry is right then there is a further two years of study (provided by St Hild’s College in Sheffield) before you can be licensed by a Bishop.