Bishop James recently licensed 12 new Readers who now serve in parishes across the Diocese of Liverpool. Many of them have kindly agreed to share their stories with us.
This week we meet Janice and Stephen Farrell who both serve at Hale St Mary.
Janice and Stephen have been married for 40 years. Janice is originally from Widnes and was involved with church since joining Sunday school as a little girl. Stephen was raised as a Catholic, but his involvement with church did not start until the couple were introduced to Hale St Mary through Hale C of E Primary - the school where Janice eventually became Deputy Head Teacher. Stephen owns a car valet business and he and Janice have two daughters and four grandchildren – their grandchildren were all baptised at Hale St Mary.
Janice and Stephen’s involvement with the church grew over the years. In 2008 Stephen decided to get confirmed in the C of E. Janice led Alpha sessions, and Stephen began to give talks about his own faith.
It was after Janice’s early retirement that the couple started to look more seriously at how they could serve their community. Janice said, “When I retired, I did so with the feeling that I was meant to do something in church. I wasn’t sure what, so I went and spoke to my vicar Janice Collier who was very supportive and went through the options with me. She suggested that I think of becoming a Reader. I went through periods of thinking ‘not me!’ and that God couldn’t be calling me. However, the feeling that I had something to do became stronger.”
Then, out of the blue, Stephen told Janice that he had been feeling the same. Stephen said, “I had been involved in Alpha and other things such as doing a foundation course, but I felt that I wanted to take the next step. I knew that Janice felt the same, so we thought that it was something that we could do together. We knew it was going to be hard, but we were there to support each other – in fact the whole group of Readers supported each other throughout the course.”
Janice added, “Going back to education was certainly daunting – it was a long time since I had trained to be a teacher! The assignments were also a challenge. It was funny to be the student again after teaching for so many years. However we appreciated having each other through it.”
Janice’s placement was at Cronton Mission and Stephen’s placement was at The Place to Be in Speke.
Janice said: “I always thought of the church as being linked to the building in some ways, but Cronton Mission actually held its services in a school. This was new to me, but it really opened my eyes about the different ways of worship.”
Stephen was equally inspired by The Place to Be. He said: to begin with it was so out of my comfort zone, but the Vicar Jill Pinnington and the lovely congregation soon made me feel welcome and at home.
Now that they are both settled in their new roles, Janice and Stephen have plans to develop their ministry. Janice is working alongside local schools, helping at after school clubs and leading worship. She is also keen to train in bereavement ministry. Stephen has set up a Men’s Group at Hale St Mary,
encouraging companionship through activities such as bowling. He has also given talks at various Alpha courses around the South Widnes deanery.
Janice said: “Our daughters were so proud of us. They knew that it was a struggle at times and we had also had a testing time in other ways. But it has been an amazing journey. We feel very comfortable at Hale St Mary. It is the right place for us; it is where we want to be and a place where we think we can do God’s work.”
What does it mean to be a Reader?
Being a Reader takes three years of study and is an important part of the work of the Church of England. Readers are involved in many types of church work including teaching, preaching, leading certain services and helping the local vicar with the worship at the church.
Readers are very often in work and as active members of the community bring a fresh perspective to the local church. For some, it is the first step to ordination
The Diocese of Liverpool is one of the leading dioceses in the country for the support and development of Readers, with over 280 carrying out an active ministry.
These take a variety of forms including a reader who is Chaplain to Liverpool John Lennon Airport and others who are chaplains in prisons or who run churches in schools.
To find out more about Reader Ministry please contact Warden of Readers Jean Todd: firstname.lastname@example.org