Chaplain’s Blog Stardate 2.08.2020

Some thoughts on Licensed Lay Ministry….. this might get the discussion going at Monday Morning’s meeting! J

My views are coloured by spending much of my teaching career as a deputy head. As deputy, someone else is mostly in charge and the deputy is there  to support, help and gently and appropriately challenge.  Often one’s own ideas are posted into the mind of the head only to find out they resurface sometime later as their idea – good deputies treat this as a success and say nothing.  Occasionally as deputy one gets left in charge, sometimes for a lengthy period  and that can be challenging especially of a new head is appointed – but the job of support and challenge remains the same.  I treat my local Reader Ministry in much the same way.

As you might imagine, I have a lot of conversations and communication with Readers about their personal situations and their ministry and I write this buoyed by the positivity, creativity and determination to carry on in the face of all sorts of problems. For example those who are ministering to others while suffering terminal illness, having to care for someone with dementia or recovering in infinitesimally small steps from serious illness shows just how strong that call, that charge from our Lord is and, as Chaplain, I am in awe as I pray for those Readers. 

On the other hand, others have found it hard to find a role and lately the range of Reader opinion expressed within my hearing has been wide to say the least. Here are some generic examples:

  • We are in transition and so much is expected of me – I love it because I am useful or it’s impossible because people expect too much and there is no end in sight.
  • I am not used enough, my incumbent does not understand me and I never talk to them because they are much too busy.
  • I love being part of a flourishing ministry team.    
  • The Covid period has been dreadful because everything has been taken away…
  • The Covid period has provided new opportunities for ministry and I have been energised and motivated in new ways…..
  • Secretly I have loved lockdown, I have been able to step back and re-evaluate what is important
  • Although I have enjoyed the solitude of lockdown it is bad for me because we ought to be out there …..

I am sure you can think of more….. perhaps one for your own situation. 

At its heart, Reader Ministry is about teaching and preaching, the lay theologians of the parish or at least it used to be. The Central Readers website now rebranded as asks,

What is a Licensed Lay (Reader) Minister ?

“A Licensed Lay (Reader) Minister is a lay person who, following a call from God, is trained and licensed by the Anglican Church to teach the faith, enable mission and lead in church and society.”

That is a far broader remit, so when Readers (Licensed Lay Ministers) say they are underused the following goes through my mind to ask:

  1. Have you spoken to your incumbent about your work agreement?
    • Have you asked your incumbent why you are not asked to preach?
    • Have they watched you?
  2. Do you meet with the rest of the ministry team in your patch?
  3. What are the needs of your local church / community?
  4. What training do you think you might need to respond to need if your current skill set does not match?

Now you might be surprised that the first question is often answered with an ironic chuckle and comments about never seeing the clergy and never havening been asked about a work agreement to which my response is along the lines of. “download one of the sample agreements available on the chaplain’s website, edit it to suit you and book an appointment. If you are in transition you might want to consult the rural dean.”

The second one is more tricky. There are places where ministry teams don’t meet currently and I suspect there are local issues about this. There are weeks when I sigh and think …. ‘Oh dear another team meeting!’ but in all honesty they are incredibly valuable especially when we do some Bible Study together as part of it.  My advice is to keep asking!

The third question has often been done as part of AMD but not always shared and always worth revisiting but it helps if the ministry team meets.

The last question is usually answered with a denial of knowing what is available and a plethora of excuses about time and relevance.

Training Looks pretty but there was nothing there today, however will bring up the latest training offerings. I am looking forward to the prayer and Celtic Spirituality Course on Thursday afternoon!

If you were licensed in the last few years you may well get invitations to the Post Licensing Programme which is beginning in the autumn fronted by Martin Adams.

Those in training are following the SWMTC programme.

And…… there are webinars widely available. If anyone has suggestions they think others should know about please do let me know.

If you would like to contribute to the discussion come and join us on Monday morning – ask me for a link if you can’t find the email invitation.


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