We asked Spen Webster how he felt approaching the end of his time as Warden of Readers.
“Five years ago I was asked how I felt being appointed to this role. I said then that I felt privileged and humbled that God had chosen me to undertake this role. I realise that even more now as my memorable tenure as Warden draws to a close. Yes, I sense a feeling of relief and many other different emotions but I am looking forward to the next chapter of being called to serve.
The main focus of my calling has been through continued prayer, asking for guidance and wisdom in how Readers needed supporting with their contribution to the enormous change agenda at National church and local diocesan levels. This has meant revisiting who we are as Readers (licensed lay ministers) alongside the roles of other lay ministers and their ministries. This has also meant reminding myself and my fellow Reader colleagues that we are part of the body of Christ with many varying gifts to offer in our mission of God's calling to be part of a Bigger Church making a Bigger Difference. In so doing it reflects, or should do, how we contribute to the change agendas by our 'thoughts, words and deeds'. This presents a challenge to all of us as we continue to pray and seek God's help and guidance.”
Spen reflects on the highlights of the last five years and what the future holds for Reader Ministry within the Diocese of Liverpool:
“The biggest standout moment is that I have survived(!) to the end of my tenure and I do thank God for that as I come to the end of this chapter of my Reader Ministry. Seriously though, standout moments have been the continued reaffirmation by both Bishops. I do look forward and pray for the arrival and ministry of our new Bishop-designate Beverly Mason who will, among other responsibilities, continue to oversee the work of all Lay Ministers. Another stand out moment was being part of a diocesan group of Readers who attended a London based event to celebrate 150 years of Reader Ministry. I am looking forward to when we celebrate 50 years of the admission of women to Reader Ministry in 2019. It was a privilege for me, as part of over 100 years of Reader Ministry in our diocese to present at Diocesan Synod about who we are and what we do as a distinct ministry. We do more than 'keep the show on the road'. I was greatly humbled by the response from synod to this presentation. In the past five years, it has been truly amazing watching and being part of the process of many other people being licensed to Reader Ministry. This year is no exception with 10 more people being licensed this weekend. I thank God that people discern Reader Ministry to be their calling. I again give thanks to God for those Readers who have gone forward for ordination.
We have over 300 Readers which is a mighty army of ministers, servants of Christ, who are theologically and practically trained. I am really heartened by the development of a new role of Warden of Lay Ministers. This role will especially oversee the work of local missional leaders and also Readers. At long last, this brings all lay ministers, licensed or appointed, and their ministry 'under one umbrella’. What I sincerely hope and pray for is a seamless transition during this process of creating a new way of working together as lay ministers, as part of the body of Christ. At the same time, this new initiative by the diocese will add weight and clarity to the Reader's role and the profile being recognised, following a national review of Reader Ministry by the CofE, under three headings: ‘Teachers of the faith’, ‘Enablers of mission’, and ‘Leaders in church and society’.
These are good times for lay ministry in this diocese and, if it’s needed, Reader Ministry being reaffirmed once again alongside all Lay ministries. This is so important if the agendas of change are to succeed in their vision. Lay ministers working together. Readers are however part of a distinct ministry and can contribute to the overall mission church by teaching and interpreting the word in real life situations, enabling others in the process of the church mission work, and leading the church and society in fulfilling God's vision of a bigger church bigger difference.
I genuinely believe that Reader Ministry is still a ministry that is part of God's plan for the diocese. It is a major contributor to the diocese agenda. A mighty army that prays on the move, responds to the changes and answers the call willingly where ever it may lead. We need to pray for Tim Griffiths; a Reader, ex LML and in training for ordination, who takes up the role of Interim Warden of Lay ministers and in so doing, continues to lead a scoping project on this area of church resources. This will conclude early next year when a new Warden of Lay Ministers will be appointed.
What is very important is that Lay Ministers Well-Being is at the forefront of personal support initiatives for those working on the front line of mission. The Diocese has a duty of care not just to clergy but support workers too. We do also need, as we go forward into the future, to look at joint lay ministry recruitment and discernment opportunities for people to explore their calling, a calling which for many Readers has already been a lifelong calling! I thank God for my fellow Readers whom I have served with God's help in these past five years."
What is next for Spen?
"I want to spend more time with my family. I will continue with my Reader Ministry at St Ambrose Church, Widnes, and support the changes that are happening within our team and current interregnum. I will be continuing with my volunteer chaplaincy at the Cathedral. However, I will be taking time out to reflect, pray and discern God's calling for the next chapter of my life.
I do thank God in prayer for all those who have supported me in the Warden's role it has been an amazing journey for me and also to witness God at work in many different situations has been a truly humbling and immense privilege."