This week we talk to Annie Houghton, newly licensed Reader from St Peter's Ashton in Makerfield, who is looking forward to getting involved in school ministry and in deepening her support for people who are bereaved and grieving.
Q. Why do you think reader ministry is important, and what role will you play in your church?
Reader ministry provides that vital link between the lay people and the Clergy. My incumbent told me when I first discussed training with her that as a Reader people are more inclined to approach you with issues and problems they feel “it’s not worth bothering the vicar with”, as being a lay person a Reader can seem more accessible. I am looking forward to having a very pastoral ministry and being able to share God’s love with people in all aspects of their lives from the very difficult times to the very joyous.
Q. Where are you from originally, and have you lived or worked elsewhere?
I am originally from Plymouth. I moved to Warrington in December 1989, so this year I celebrate 25 years of living in this region. Before having to give up work due to disability I was a Work Based Learning NVQ Assessor and Trainer and I loved helping people to realise their potential and achieve their goals.
Q. Was your interest in reader ministry gradual, or something you knew you have always wanted to do?
It was a process that seemed to happen without my even realising it. I attended an Alpha course (the first one run in our area) and was introduced to a God I hadn’t realised existed - previously I had thought of him as being something apart from me but through Alpha I got to know the God who is within me and was able to give my life back to him. I became involved with Alpha, first as a helper, then becoming a small group leader, which I still am. Through this I became involved with an alternative, more reflective service we put on at church and the thought of Reader Ministry kept coming to me more and more. Eventually my incumbent broached the subject of my ministry and I realised that all these thoughts and feelings had been leading me to this moment.
Q. What roles did you hold in church before your licensing?
I started out 14 or 15 years ago as a Sunday School teacher and at that time was involved with our Flower Guild. I became a Youth Group leader and a member of the Choir. I have led non-sacramental services and still do, and I am involved with Confirmation preparation both for children and adults. I am also, on a practical level, the Church Administrator and Verger for weddings, and a Foundation Governor for our school. Phew – it isn’t until it’s all written down that you realise how much there is!
Q. Do you have an interest in a particular kind of ministry, and how would you like to develop this?
I am looking forward to developing my funeral ministry. I feel that during the times when we are bereaved and grieving are the occasions when God is closest to us and if, through me, he is given an opportunity to demonstrate his love and compassion to help people through this process it will be an honour and privilege for me to provide that channel. I am also looking forward to being involved with School Ministry through our own Church School, St Peter’s CofE School, Newton Le Willows. the children there are amazing and so insightful that they, more often than not, teach me rather than my teaching them!
Q. Do you have any interesting hobbies?
Outside of Church I am a Mystery Shopper. My identical twin sister, Carol, and I go to hotels and restaurants as guests and assess the level of service provided. It’s a wonderful way to see more of the country and to meet people who I wouldn’t normally come into contact with. Very often I am able to share my faith and love of God with the people I meet which is a blessing in itself.