We meet Rev Simon Chesters, newly-appointed Director for Studies
It’s all change for Reader Training as the diocese launches a new-look training course for Reader Ministry. We spoke to the newly appointed Director for Studies, Rev Simon Chesters, about how the course has changed and what benefits that will bring to our diocese.
What exactly does a Director of Studies do?
I equip all kinds of people to be effective and prayerful ministers of the Gospel working closely with those on the part-time regional Reader or Clergy training courses. I provide support for those in training and liaise with home parishes, who are a key part of the learning on the course.
I also look after the programme of continued training that Readers do after they’ve been licensed and am involved in some other areas of training for clergy, Readers and lay people. I am passionate about equipping all kinds of people to be more effective ministers where God is calling them to be.
How have you found the Diocese of Liverpool, and working with our Readers?
I am very familiar with the Diocese of Liverpool through my work in Chester Diocese and at CPAS. I’ve always been impressed by the way that Liverpool thinks creatively about Reader ministry and how it serves the mission of the church –especially the emphasis on Readers being part of that “mixed economy” of different ways of being church.
It’s great to be working with a diocese with one of the largest numbers of licensed Readers in the country. Liverpool has a lot more Readers in training than many other dioceses. That’s really encouraging.
The biggest change since you started has been the revamp of Reader Training. What has changed?
The whole course has been thoroughly reviewed, and the biggest change is that Reader training now takes two years rather than three. It is much more obviously geared to equipping people for Reader ministry – with a clearer focus on the practical skills of preaching and worship-leading, on growing in ministry and on the place of the Bible in Reader Ministry.
That reactions to the previous course varied greatly – is this why the changes have been brought about?
Talking to many of the Readers who were licensed in September, I was struck by their diverse reactions to their training – from “it was great” to “it was grim” and everything in between! So we have really tried to listen to feedback and redesign the course to make it more accessible and better suited to preparing people for active Reader ministry. For example, the very first modules on the new course involve preaching and worship-leading and skills for ministry (they came rather later on in the old course).
What can a potential reader expect to know and learn?
In each year there are three modules. Year 1 looks at worship-leading and preaching, the Old Testament, practical skills for ministry and sustaining your spiritual life in Christian ministry. Year 2 looks at the New Testament, mission and outreach, what Christians believe and what it means to be a Christian in the Anglican tradition.
There are three key themes though- mission, making disciples, and working with young people.
But it’s not just about listening and talking – it’s about real-life ministry in a church context. Trainees will regularly preach, be involved in leading worship and support other church and community activities. And receive helpful feedback on their activities.
The aim is that they will know more about the bible and Christian faith, about themselves and their prayer life and so have the knowledge and skills to help others learn more about their faith.
And what does it mean practically?
Whilst this new course is aimed at being more accessible and shorter, it is still a significant commitment. Trainees come to weekday evening sessions and to study days on Saturdays and Sundays. Trainees will work in their home churches, and in the second half of their first year, will have a placement in a different church to broaden their experience.
They will do written assignments that are very much linked to ministry. Each year there are two assessed sermons and specific tasks in a parish or placement.
We expect people to come prepared to think, discuss and do, and engage in the exciting but sometimes scary process of finding out more about what God might be calling them to do in His service.
How does someone who feels God is calling them to Reader Ministry get involved?
We have two taster evenings in February where you can meet myself, Jean Todd (Warden of Readers) and current Readers to find out more. Do also talk to the minister of your home church and to Christian friends or family about whether they think it might be right for you. If all those things seem to be lining up, there are selection days in May to help work out whether training is the thing God is calling you to next.