On Saturday the 18th of July in 1964 the three readers were licensed by Laurence Brown, Bishop of Warrington at Ormskirk Parish Church. We spoke to them about their experiences of their ministry over the years:
The Readers (from left to right) are Peter Middleton who has served 50 years at Southport St Simon and St Jude with All Souls, Brian Cross who has served 50 years at Rainford All Saints and Norman Lyon who has served 50 years at Skelmersdale St Paul.
We spoke to the three reader’s about their experiences of their ministry over the years:
Firstly, our readers were asked of their memories of their licensing day?
Peter Middleton -
It was a hot summer day in Ormskirk Parish church and I was a last minute addition to the list of people to be licensed. I had to make do with a choir cassock and surplice. The Bishop of Warrington officiated - the Rt Rev Lawrence Browne.
Brian Cross -
Sorry - almost non-existent ( for me 50 years is too far back!!!) other than the licensing took place at Ormskirk Parish Church and it was a week before my wedding day.
The licensing was supported by family, friends and members of St Paul, Skelmersdale. One felt that you were being licensed into a church with a great heritage and tradition. Bishop Laurence Brown was a larger than life figure who did everything possible to make you feel affirmed in your vocation.
What called you into readers ministry in the first place and continue over the years that followed ?
Peter Middleton –
I knew from my teenage years God was calling me to some form of public ministry. A conversation with the then Bishop of Liverpool, Clifford Martin, highlighted for me the role of the reader as someone with one foot in 'the world of work' and one foot in the leadership of the church.. I was a teacher and found that to be my vocation which in turn enhanced my ministry in church.
Brian Cross -
I felt that, as a Reader, assisting in and leading services was a way of serving God in my local church community and would also open up other opportunities of service.
I got great satisfaction, and felt very privileged, in having the opportunity to pass on the word of God to others through sermons: to share Communion with people in their homes and in visiting the sick in hospitals and at home. I felt very honoured to be responsible for Confirmation training for a number of years.
As a Reader I was ex-officio on the PCC which enabled me to play a part in the running of the Parish and present a spiritual input to discussions and to be aware of the problems and joys of parish administration.
Norman Lyon –
My vicar at the time was Rev Ernest Penley and he both invited me and guided me into becoming a reader. I remember him as a great teacher. Having started on this this" journey without end" the 50 years have remained fresh.
How have things changed over the years?
Peter Middleton -
One of the key changes is that in the early decades I ministered in lots of different churches. I have preached in all but 2 of the churches in this deanery at one time or another. Nowadays I rarely play away from home, because there are more readers and more eucharists. I enjoy trying to relate the Bible to the contemporary world in an accessible way.
Brian Cross –
I have served under 5 Vicars - each of which had different approaches to worship and service which meant that my contributions varied over time. One vicar controlled every aspect of parish life while another was very free and easy. This provided me with times of frustration and times of encouragement but I felt that I was serving God and tried not to be distracted by 'other' things.
In my early years with three young children my contributions were limited but when I took early retirement I was able to contribute more, not only on Sundays but during the week through sick and hospital visiting and the taking of the occasional funeral - although my offer to take more was not taken up.
Changes in the Parish have been frustratingly very slow - eg BCP being very difficult to move from but over the last 5/6 years changes have been made and the introduction of power point presentations have enabled more varied and interesting services. In a way I wish I was starting my Readership now and not retiring. There is new hope and expectation in the parish as younger people are beginning to take a more active part and the older ones more acceptable to change.
Fortunately, over the years, I have received much support and appreciation from the congregations and can look back on many happy and blessed moments in the life of the parish and its contributions to the community.
Norman Lyon –
The changes are too numerous to codify. Today the emphasis is very much on experience rather than on understanding the meaning.
Thanks to Norman, Brian and Peter for sharing their memories with us and congratulations and blessings to them ahead of their anniversary of the 50 years on July 18th 2014.