40 years in Reader ministry

Peter Gladney celebrated 40 years as a Reader, at a special service presided by Bishop Richard last Sunday.

40 years in ministry is a phenomenal achievement. A milestone celebrated by Reader Peter Gladney at a special service presided by Bishop Richard last Sunday. Peter, Lay Reader at St Peters Birkdale spoke to us ahead of this landmark service to offer some reflections on the changing nature of this ministry over the last 40 years.

One constant he stressed was the grounded nature of the ministry keeping a strong connection to the local community, the community Reader’s live and work in, interpreting scripture and doctrine in the light of the local experience.

Peter was fortunate as he developed his calling – with a number of Lay Readers in his local church there was a culture that looked to encourage this particular ministry.

Acceptance into Reader Ministry was a far more daunting prospect. “We were very much left on our own with four three hour exams and two extended studies covering the bible, church history and doctrine. We could get some help from our own vicar. Training is much better now, helping Readers become more prepared – and the notion of continual learning just didn’t exist when I was licensed”.

Peter was licensed into a time when the church hadn’t developed non-stipendiary or ordained local ministry. His ministry, across two churches in the Birkdale area has been fulfilling. Mainly focussed on a teaching and preaching ministry, encouraging others to see how their faith can be lived out in the world, Peter was also involved in developing experimental services leading towards the introduction of the ASB.

Combining his ministry with a career in banking Peter has clearly enjoyed his last 40 years. “I have loved the preaching and teaching - helping people make connections between their faith and the wider aspect of the church. My horizons broadened while serving on the Diocesan Reader’s Committee and the national 125th year celebration at the Birmingham Indoor Arena is an occasion that will remain with me forever.”

He recognises the changes the ministry has seen. Over the years he has developed a more pastoral role, a recognisable figure alongside the vicar that congregations can turn to. He also sees that the role will develop as we look to the challenges ahead. “the Church of England only changes when it is forced to and the current need for new leaders, our diocese’s response through the local leadership agenda will change the role of readers. Already Lay Readers are called to be more flexible, to work alongside other ministries. We need to stop over emphasising the differences and start emphasising the whole church”.

Peter still values the distinctive role of Readers “the role is a lay role, the ministry is a local ministry and is incredibly valuable because of that. We are a conduit between the parish and wider church and the constant, vital presence of leadership”

And now Peter is looking to his future. With his wife, Dot, a Reader Emeritus, he is thinking about whether to ease his ministry or continue with the Bishop’s permission to officiate. But for now it is time to celebrate and thank Peter for his ministry. Like so many servants of God in our parishes Peter provides an inspirational local ministry so important for the mission of God and growth of our church.

Bishop Richard, The Bishop of Warrington joined the congregation at St Peter’s Birkdale for a celebration of Peter’s 40 years. The service was as much as celebration of Reader Ministry involving reader colleagues and including an address from the Warden of Readers Jean Todd. It was also an opportunity for those present to think about and be re-commissioned in their calling.

Bishop Richard said: "It was a great pleasure and privilege to be invited to preside at this service of Holy Communion celebrating Peter’s 40 years as a Reader. On the day, Peter himself reminded us that our our service was the Eucharist – a thanksgiving, which is what it was, focusing on Christ and what he has done in and through Peter. It was striking that Peter did not take centre stage (instead he sat in the pews with his family) – typical of his modesty and his sense of calling to service. I continue to hold him, Dot and the whole family in my prayers as Peter continues to go forward in his ministry."