The Church of England celebrates 150 Years of Reader Ministry

Spen Webster attended the Festival Eucharist in London as Church of England celebrates 150 Years of Reader Ministry with a small number of representatives from our diocese . Here he reflects on the day and the important role of Reader Ministry in the Diocese of Liverpool

On Ascension Day in 1866 Lambeth Palace 20 Archbishops and Bishops re-established the office of Reader.  On Ascension Day 2016 in All Souls Langham Place London, in the presence of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, Patron of the Central Readers’ Council, and The Archbishop of York The Most Reverend & Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu, a Festival Eucharist took place to give thanks and celebrate 150 years of Reader Ministry. A wonderful, uplifting and reaffirming Eucharistic service attended by a small number of Readers and their representatives from the Liverpool Diocese.

Today, as in 1866, the Church began to realise that the inherited model of mission and ministry was simply not working in many places. The ‘Transforming Vision’ in 1866 was to extend the effectiveness of the traditional parochial system to new pioneering work on the boundaries between the church and the world. The re-establishment then of Reader in 1866 and the re-affirmation of Reader Ministry now in 2016 by this Diocese demonstrates that the Reader Ministry, a distinct ministry, is very much alive and continues to be at the fore front of licensed and authorised lay ministry at the boundaries! It is more than a ministry that merely ‘keeps the show on the road’! It is a ministry at the very boundaries of pioneering work in so many different ways especially a key contributor for example to the ‘Reclaiming the Funeral Ministry’ Strategy and the ‘Transforming’ agenda.

In the Diocese of Liverpool the Reader Ministry goes from strength to strength year on year. We thank God for all Readers in this Diocese and pray for their continued involvement in the ‘Renew and Reform’ agenda of the Diocese. Today the Church is asking what may be the shape of its lay public ministry for the future, and what will be the distinctive role for 10,000 Readers in the Church of England, and also in this diocese, who are trained in God-talk (theology). 150 years of this distinct ministry by those who have continued down the ages to ‘bring God into the conversation’ should present a large clue to those involved in shaping lay ministry. In this Diocese there is a large army of men and women who can provide shape, structure and response to the Diocese’s transforming vision and are ready, willing and more than able to continue to serve Our God in humility and commitment.

Spen Webster, Warden of Readers

“In this Diocese there is a large army of men and women who can provide shape, structure and response to the Diocese’s transforming vision”