Readers encouraged to celebrate their diversity
Following an introduction to the day’s programme from Bishop Chris, the Readers were led through an examination of their role, its history and purpose by Canon Sue Hart – a Reader herself at St Mary’s Monkseaton in Whitley Bay for more than 14 years and also the National Advisor for Quality in Reader Education.
Supported by four short presentations from Readers from our diocese, Sue demonstrated how Reader ministry had evolved from its original teaching and preaching function to encompass a whole variety of community roles, including chaplaincy (17 of the 120 Readers in our diocese are chaplains), pastoral support and promotion of ecumenical projects.
At a time when there was constant debate about whether or not Readers should change their title to Licensed Lay Ministers, Sue cautioned against becoming hung up on the name but rather to embrace all the wider opportunities that are opening up. “Don’t rely on a name to describe what a Reader’s role entails,” she said. “Simply be and do who and what you are!”
During discussion, it was agreed that there was much scope for Readers and clergy to work more closely together and to recognise each other’s strengths and weaknesses, especially as part of the Accompanied Ministry Development process. Readers are not “mini-vicars” and their licensed ministry is complementary to that of ordained clergy – something that should enable them to take the pressure off busy clergy colleagues who are already stretched.
At the AGM, Carrie Tucker was confirmed as secretary of the Diocese of Truro Readers, Jim Seth as assistant secretary, Kathryn Hill as Central Reader Council representative and Claire Charlton joined the Reader Committee as a new member.
To wind up the day, a debate was held at which the motion was: ‘To change the title of Reader to Licensed Lay Minister (LLM) for all newly licensed Reader ministers from October 2015 onwards’, with the proviso that Readers licensed prior to that date could retain whichever option they preferred.
There was a lively debate, with proposing and seconding speakers making the case for and against the proposition. Speakers from the floor also had an opportunity to express their views. When Bishop Chris asked for a show of hands there was no clear majority, although his impression was that there was perhaps a 60:40 split in favour. He decided, however, that with so many Readers not at the meeting it would be fairer to give everyone the chance to vote, probably as part of the Annual Return process in July.