Dear Readers with a capital R (and other interested parties)
Perhaps I should be writing “Dear Transforming Missionaries” rather than “Dear Readers” as the Central Readers Council is changing the name of the “Reader” magazine to “Transforming Mission.” It seems indicative of the current trend in the church to speak of Lay Ministry as being pastoral ministers, home communion officiants, Worship Leaders and so on but not really including Readers. We seem to be, at least in the Truro diocese, somewhere in the limbo-land between the enthusiastic but ultimately briefly trained and the ordained ministries. It is no wonder that a number of Readers (Licensed Lay Ministers) (transforming Missionaries!) feel somewhat disgruntled about putting aside two or three years for theological training and then watching others with less than 18 hours training in total give ‘talks’ in the sermon slot.
I have to qualify that by saying that it is what I have been told by Readers on my travels rather than my personal experience which is rather different. In Redruth as a Reader I enjoy going to the weekly ministry team meetings (Readers and Ordained Clergy) for our Bible study and business. We do have worship leaders who are encouraged and guided the Ministry Team but they don’t preach but then the worship leader who felt called to preach is currently undergoing Reader Training. I actually feel quite strongly that as Readers, we have a responsibility to foster the vocations of others at all levels and that enabling someone else to share the Good News might be more important that our individual need to stand in the pulpit.
Elsewhere, outside the diocese of Truro, Readers (or whatever one likes to call them) are undergoing different paths and different levels of participation but it does not seem I danger of dying out in the near future. After all, there is personal benefit to being trained as well as to equip us for ministry. Ultimately we go to lectures, attend residentials, write essays and sample sermons because we want to and get something from it. God nags at us and we respond….. but should we expect pats on the back or sympathy or should we just be grateful that we have been given a job to do, that a door has been opened before us and we should joyfully go through it….. until we meet a closed door.
I had my favourite ever compliment following my half hour sermon/talk to Camborne Wesley Ladies Fellowship last week. An elderly lady approached and said how much she had enjoyed it, that it was fascinating and interesting and that she had loved every minute. Then she apologised for falling asleep in the middle and having to be nudged awake by her daughter- it was the tablets. I had to laugh.
So, back to open and closed doors. Many of the problems faced by those in ministry, both lay and ordained seem to stem from lack of appropriate communication which in part is why I bang on about work agreements, a document that gives a great basis for discussion. A work agreement should not be drawn up in isolation and rubber stamped…. It should be discussed. Here are some sample starting points….
- Are you doing too much or too little?
- What are the needs of the Parish / benefice and how do you fit?
- Where does the incumbent need help most?
- Are there things you don’t like doing?
- Are there things you love doing but don’t get a chance?
- How many committees are you prepared to attend?
- How many committees do you actually need to attend.
- Ideally how many services could you manage?
- Is there any training you need?
- What would help you carry out your ministry better?
- Would it be helpful to work ecumenically? (e.g. help on the Methodist Plan)
There are several varieties of work agreements on the website because one size does not fit all. Pick the one closest to your situation or your style and use it as a base changing, deleting or adding to as necessary but in conversation!
Health warning: I have come across incumbents so stressed that they can no longer delegate because they don’t have the energy to let alone host a meeting about work agreements – as Readers it is important that we choose our time and be sensitive if we are to Transform our Mission into something more useful / suitable.