In the latest of our new reader profiles, we meet Simon Martin, who serves at Hindley St Peter with his wife Rachel.
Simon’s first memory of church was at the age of 6 – “My parents had sent me to St James C of E School, Orrell. I remember one of the children stood up in assembly and said that she really enjoyed Sunday school, so I decided I wanted to go too! I really liked it and ended up in a confirmation class at the age of 12 and as a regular church attendee. I really wanted to carry the cross at services and was delighted when I was given that job!”
After going to study Geology at the University of Leeds, Simon returned to St Luke’s Orrell where he became a co-ordinator for the Christian Singles Organisation - Christian Friendship Fellowship (CFF).
Simon had moved to the Elim Pentecostal church and it was at a CFF conference in Doncaster where he met his wife Rachel, who was from London. In 1994 Rachel married Simon at Wigan Elim and soon afterwards the couple started attending St Peter’s Hindley, which they had first been introduced to through their Christmas eve midnight services.
The couple felt that they wanted to re-orientate themselves with regards to their faith, so together they took the Christian Foundation Course - which looking back was just the first step for them both in exploring their calling. They then went on to take another course on mission shaped ministry. As the couple became more involved in church – Simon was also a verger and helped with community Friday lunches - their vicar suggested that they look at reader training, so they attended a taster evening.
Simon said: “Even after attending the taster evening I was very unsure whether or not it was for me. However, the following day I was reading morning prayer and psalm 68 v. 6 - "God gives the solitary a home” - really spoke to me.
This spoke of the singles ministry I once had with Christian Friendship Fellowship, as it was their motto, and it made me realise that God wanted to do more ministry through me as a lay reader, utilising and building on the skills I had learnt in my CFF ministry. This verse was therefore the catalyst. The rest of the psalm spoke about God overcoming my difficulties and limitations including my prominent birthmark. I decided to go forward and was accepted. It was very hard work but I did learn a lot. Although I did the course with my wife, we gave each other the space to learn independently and develop our own interests in ministry.”
Simon agrees that his new skills and experience helps him in his current role as a genealogist. “My line of work involves me speaking to people tracing their family tree and it can often be an emotional experience for them. As well as learning more about the Church of England, the course also developed my own faith and my ability to deal with people in various sensitive situations.”
Simon says of serving at St Peter’s Hindley: “There was a strong sense that we – and readers in general – were needed. Just as we were about to be licensed, our vicar died and it really brought home to us both the privilege and responsibility of being a reader. We were called on to lead and take on extra roles, which we were very happy to do for our community.”
Simon says that during the reader course he discovered an interest in preaching, something which he would like to develop further. He also wants to look at developing funeral ministry and home communions for those unable to get to church.