The annual Reader service took place at Truro Cathedral this weekend and as well as celebrations, it was also a service of hellos and goodbyes.

Revd Canon Jane Kneebone gave the sermon in her last duty as Director of Reader Training, a post she has held for eight years.

Jane said: “Standing here today, I can see the faces of those with whom I trained as a Reader, several years ago now; and then those of you whom I have had the joy of walking alongside as you trained and were formed for Reader, or Licensed Lay Ministry. I have lectured you, prayed for you, chased you for work, tried to inspire and encourage you, had lots of fun with you, and you know I have loved you all. In return, you have humbled, inspired and encouraged me, and given me back far more than I ever gave you.”

Jane also had praise for those who have worked with her from Revd David Miller, who was the previous director, to Jim Seth the current Chaplain to Readers and others.

Community theologians who teach, preach and enable everyday faith

Jane continued: “In the course of all this I have driven miles trying to find out-of-the way homes, churches and vicarages to do home visits; I have drunk umpteen cups of coffee and scoffed not a few pieces of cake on the way. I have laughed and cried with you, and I have stood in this Cathedral swelling with pride as I declared (utterly mendaciously, of course!) that you were adequately prepared and fit for the ministry you were about to embark on. And you have repaid my trust a hundredfold in your many and varied ways across the diocese.

“Readers truly are ‘Community theologians who teach, preach and enable everyday faith’. I can’t think of a better definition of what I consider Readers are all about.”

Jane used Psalm 119 and a reading from 1 Thessalonians to talk about the importance of listening.

“Our listening must encompass our people. How do we encourage them in their everyday faith? We need to know them as well as we can, both corporately and individually, helping them to see where there are good things happening in their midst, and where not. Our reading from 1 Thessalonians is a pretty good blueprint in miniature for community life. I suspect that one of our major failings as the Christian families in many places is what St Benedict called ‘murmuring’, that is, continually muttering about others and the organisation’s failings, and consequently showing a lack of patience with each other.”

You are the permanent people in your place

She told the Readers present: “As community theologians, you hold the light of Christ up to, and for, your community. You are the permanent people in your place, much more than a good many of the clergy. You are the anchor points in your churches, and very often you hold the community story and know intimately its needs and concerns. If you are newly moved into your community, it’s important to find those things out. And you are those who have the training and the insight to interpret the faith to them according to those needs and concerns.”

We must learn to trust and value our lay ministers

“In this diocese, and in the church as a whole, we are in a process of major change – even a paradigm shift – which will continue yet for some time. It can feel that all we hold dear is shifting beneath our feet and we can’t keep up with it. I wonder if that’s what it feels like to try to keep up with the Spirit?

“Lay ministry itself, of all kinds, is certainly becoming more and more important, though it can feel like an uphill struggle to get through to some clergy and our congregations at times. But if we are to thrive as a church, we must learn to trust and value our lay ministers, especially the Licensed ones!”

Welcome Dr John Ievins

Jane’s successor has been announced as Dr John Ievins, who has recently been appointed as Lay Ministry Officer, taking on Jane’s responsibility for supporting the ministry of all Readers across the diocese. John, who comes to Cornwall from Newcastle, brings a wealth of preaching and teaching experience. He completed his doctorate in Systematic Theology just before Covid struck.

Speaking after the service, Bishop Hugh said: “Readers are a crucial part of the life and ministry of churches and communities across the diocese. They are called to help people live out their faith in everyday life – not just for an hour on Sunday, but at work, in schools, with their families and communities. I am so grateful to them all, and to those who support them, for all their love, skill and prayer.”