The reflections of a rural archdeacon on life and issues in the Yorkshire Dales. Supporting over 180 churches in an area that covers Teesdale, Swaledale, Wensleydale, Nidderdale, Harrogate and Wetherby, a Church of England archdeacon shares some of the questions and challenges that everyday ministry throws up.
Around a hundred Readers from across the diocese gathered at St Mark's Harrogate, yesterday for a training day. (In case you're not familiar with Church of England speak, Readers are not people who like books (though they may do!) but they are licensed ministers who lead worship, preach, undertake pastoral work and sometimes take funerals, giving of their own time to do so.) They contribute hugely to the life of many parishes. The day was enormously good humoured and clearly our Readers enjoy one anothers' company and do a great deal to support and educate each another. The theme of the day was 'Renewning Yourself for Ministry' and we looked at personal spiritual, emotional and physical renewal. How do we keep going when we are giving out both at work and in ministry? Elaine Wainaina spoke about emotional well being from her perspective as a counsellor and I tackled spiritual refreshment and physical well being (for which latter topic I am not sure I am really qualified!) In the afternoon there was a 'market place' of opportunities to examine aspects of Reader ministry and time to browse the bookstall.
Readers take on a great deal of responsibility in some parishes and indeed across whole deaneries working alongside clergy and churchwardens in the leadership of ministry. They come in different shapes and sizes, some concentrating on leading worship and preaching, others doing mostly pastoral work, visiting and taking Communion to people who are house bound and in nursing homes. Some take funerals and find this an immensely rewarding ministry (if a bit daunting at first - special training is given.) One or two work more with younger people through Sunday schools, youth groups and other activities.
The training for a Reader takes two years and involves an introduction to theological and pastoral disciplines and experience of church life and leading worship through placements. The training can be shaped to fit around a person's working life. You can also try out some of the training modules by auditing them to see if you get along with the study OK. I shall be teaching a Worship module in Ripon on Tuesday nights throughout the summer term. If you or someone you know is interested in thinking about Reader ministry, please get in touch. You can be as tentative as you like! I always say to people, if you feel prompted to explore, we can help you do that with no commitment to take things further if you decide it isn't for you. There were six Readers in the last parish where I ministered, all of whom would have said they started from a point of thinking 'I couldn't possibly do it'. But with encouragement, they found they did love reading and thinking about theology, leading prayer and bible study, preaching, giving children's talks and visiting and caring for people. They were all very different people, too, with markedly different talents and the age range was about thirty to seventy!
If you would like to explore Reader ministry further, there are two Evenings An Intoduction to Reader Ministry on Monday 16th May at Thorpe Prebend, St Agnesgate, Ripon and Wednesday 18th May at the Diocesan Office, St Mary's Street, Leeds. Both 7pm - 9pm. If you'd like to go, ring Ann Nicholl on 0113 2694045
Many thanks to Ann Hemsworth and Ann Nicholl for organizing the day so well.
The music I used during my talk was:
Psalms 23 and 2 from Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms