Jim Seth is a retired primary school deputy head teacher and is currently chair of governors at a local primary school. He has been Reader for 26 years and in early 2016 became Chaplain to Readers. But Jim’s involvement in the life of the diocese began on a somewhat different path.
“I was very much a ‘born again Atheist’ at teacher training college so when it came to filling out my application forms for North London I specified that I would not teach in a church school or a single sex school but God had other plans and after some supply work, I ended up getting a job in a Church of England School!
“I met Christ in those people”
“The staff did not try and convert me or complain about my refusal to join in with prayer or certain hymns but in my five years there I can say I definitely met Christ in those people. I realised then that faith was for ordinary people and not cranks!
“I guess my church life really started at that point although it was at a memorial service for my wife’s mother that I felt a compelled to talk to the curate who was presiding. At the end of the service I said, ‘I have no idea what I need to talk to you about, I just do’. So we met and he said I was the answer to a prayer and he wanted me to run the Sunday school!
“A few years later, having run house groups, worship workshops and so on, the rector of the time Graeme Elmore, suggested I do Reader training and I became a Reader.
“Prophet rather than priest”
“Later on I did explore vocation to ordained ministry but on being told at conference by Bishop James Jones that he thought that I ‘was prophet rather than priest,’ I was relieved and focused all my efforts on being in the community as a lay minister.
“I enjoy preaching and feel it is strength but I am working to develop the chaplaincy bit. As a long serving reader it is important not to get into a rut, to keep learning and to keep exploring although I’m happy doing what I do. Reader Ministry is so wide and varied and I have so many hats that it’s very fulfilling in a lot of ways and vocations do change.”
Jim says that being a Reader is what he ‘IS’ rather than it being something he does. “I am a Reader in all I do, even if I’m acting in my governor role. For example, I will go and spend time with the head teacher giving him someone to talk to and bounce things off in conversations far wider than school standards. Ministry in schools is more than taking assemblies.
“Being a Reader is a very privileged position and the training gives you the basis of a large range of skills such as tools to listen and counsel which is why I am thrilled at being a part of the programme for training new readers as chaplain and leading practical sessions on worship and even sitting on all the additional committees!”
While Jim says his role as North Carnmarth Deanery Reader Steward started as largely an administrative position, it is also a role that is developing into chaplaincy. “It’s not just about making sure that Readers in the deanery get all the relevant news but also to make sure that they don’t feel isolated and making sure they are feeling fulfilled in their ministry.
“It’s exciting wondering what God has in store for me next”
It has proved tricky to get such a disparate group to meet together but Jim has embraced new channels in the form of social media and forums. “I use social media including Facebook and Twitter as an extension of my Reader Ministry. It’s all about giving people other means of communication and communicating the gospel is really what it’s all about! It is exciting wondering what God has in store for me next….”