Reader Ministry - LifeCall Event 2021

First published on: 2nd March 2021

Dr Emma Howarth

Tell us a bit about yourself? How does being a reader fit into your life?

My name is Emma and I am married with 3 children.  I work for Mission in the Economy (MitE) Chaplaincy which is an ecumenical chaplaincy provider to the workplace that is supported by the Liverpool Diocese as well as other denominations in this area.  Our chaplains, both paid and volunteer, go into workplaces and come alongside people, listening, supporting and loving them regardless of their faith or beliefs.  They provide a safe-space for people to rest and recover from daily pressures.  I think that being a Reader means that this is God giving me the opportunity to be in the world of work whilst holding a sacred space for Him there.  Working for MitE is a blessing as it gives a real opportunity to combine both vocations.  Clearly the more practical side of being a Reader is my work in church as well.  I worship with my family at St Helens Parish Church and I assist with services there.  I think that it can be easy to get blinkered into church life but as a Reader, having a foot in the world, does or should make me aware that there is life outside the pew which can be a blessing or a barrier to worship and God's plan for us.

What made you want to become a reader? Did you feel ‘called’ or did something inspire you to find out more?

I think the answer should be I felt an overwhelming calling, but it is not true I am afraid!  I had a fabulous vicar who kept nudging and I kept resisting, I came up with lots of reasons why not and then one day the why nots became 'why not?'  I was in a different Diocese at the time so I began a 2 year course which was not just for Readers but for anyone who wanted to know more. At the end of this we could choose to go forward for discernment and if we 'passed' we went to a year's formation before being licenced as a Lay Minister.  I finished the course and went on the discernment day and realised that I could actually be of use to God in an authorised role.  Then we moved to the Liverpool Diocese and everything paused.

What do you enjoy most about being a reader?

People.  I am rubbish at making small talk with people I don't know, but I do love to listen to people and hear their stories.  As a Reader I meet a lot of people so I can indulge in a lot of stories!

Did you enjoy the training? What advice would you give someone just beginning their journey?

I did enjoy the training.  As I said, I did 2 years in the Bristol diocese before coming here and completing the training in Liverpool.  I met so many wonderful people and we learned so much.  I really enjoyed having two hours a week when it was just for me and no one else!  The advice I would give to someone beginning their journey is, just do it (sorry Nike!), just go for it.  You can't imagine where it will take you.  God knows and has a plan, but the fun is in the travelling and the people you meet, the things you learn and the places you go along the way.  Don't leave your valuables behind - your family and friends are really important - but this is your journey, so enjoy it.

Gordon Fath

I am a Reader for a parish in Wigan. I’m married to Anita and we have two children. My son is currently preparing to move on from his Special Needs College, while my daughter has recently started her GCSEs in High School.  As I am also Resources Officer for our diocese my life basically revolves around church and family.

Prior to becoming a Reader I had been the treasurer for my parish for roughly 20 years and I was very comfortable with this role being my ‘vocation’.  But as time went on, I had the distinct feeling that God was asking me to take on a different vocation, something more challenging to me. However, I always found that I had a good long list of reasons why I couldn’t.

Over the years that followed this initial feeling, it slowly became clear that I should apply to be a Reader and at the same time I realised that my list of ‘good reasons not to’ was getting shorter. Eventually I gave in and applied.

A key point of becoming a Reader for me has meant that I have needed to stop doing other things within my church. The main one was to stop being the PCC Treasurer.  This wasn’t easy as it had been an important and defining element of my life for such a long time. It was certainly a personal challenge to me to change.

One of the main functions of a Reader is to encourage others, to help them recognise what God might be calling them to and to help them grow in their faith and understanding of Jesus. It is a very privileged role, being able to witness and maybe help a little as someone grows in their faith, grows in their personal relationship with Jesus.  It is truly amazing and probably the most enjoyable part of being a Reader, seeing people get closer to God.

Interestingly, while the main function of a Reader remains the same, the practical role of each Reader is slightly different in each church. Thankfully the training provided does a lot to prepare us.

Reader training has changed quite a lot over the years and more recently has become less intense. It is intended to be accessible to everyone and not just those with an academic nature.

Reader ministry has been in existence for over 150 years and part of its origin is in lay people taking the Word and love of God to places that the clergy couldn’t. It is a distinct ministry and to anyone who believes they may be being called to this ministry I would say trust in our God. He will and does provide all we need to fulfil his calling to us.

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