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This morning at the Reader Training Day School, Matt Frost who is in his second year of training led a thought-provoking service of prayer for persecuted Christians. 

As you might expect the main focus was on Christians persecuted around the world and especially in highlighted trouble-spots. Matt concluded with a reading from a Tweet he received earlier  from the @BarnabusFund

His service sheet is below followed by my reflection and thoughts which went a little wider as my brain began to wander through the subject. 

A Service of Prayer for Persecuted Christians

GREETING

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. And also with you.

(from Isaiah 49) Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones

INVITATION TO PRAYER

Let us pray for the persecuted church, for their oppressors, for nations that foster persecution, and for those who ignore it.

Let us read the Holy Scriptures, finding there the stories and witness of hope borne by those who lived through ordeals to the glory of God, and hear the promises of the gospel for all who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

In our prayer for persecuted Christians, let us not narrow our compassion for all who suffer, whatever their profession or creed; let no hatred or prejudice enter our hearts for anyone.

Called by the Holy Spirit to unity with the persecuted, let us enter into their suffering, repenting of our ignorance, refusing to be silent, ready to reach out to them in their isolation.

SCRIPTURE READINGS

READING 1. Nothing Can Separate Us From God’s Love: Romans 8:31-39

Reader: We also recognise all the martyrs and persecuted Christians who have gone before us. Hear the account of the persecution and martyrdom the young woman Perpetua.

A violent persecution being set on foot by the emperor Severus, in 202 {AD}, it reached Africa the following year; when, by order of Minutius Timinianus, (or Firminianus,) five catechumens {new Christians being instructed in preparation for baptism} were apprehended {and jailed} at Carthage for the faith: {among them} Felicitas and Vibia Perpetua. Felicitas was seven months {pregnant}; and Perpetua had an infant at her breast, was of a good family, twenty-two years of age, and married to a person of quality in the city. The father of Perpetua, who was a pagan, {wanted her to offer sacrifice to “the well-being of the emperor.”} Perpetua, before her death, wrote: “We were in the hands of our persecutors, when my father, out of the affection he bore me, made new efforts to shake my resolution. I said to him: ‘Can that vessel, which you see, change its name?’ He said: ‘No.’ I replied: ‘Nor can I call myself any other than I am, that is to say, a Christian.'”

Perpetua and Felicitas and the others refused to offer sacrifice and they willingly accepted death in the amphitheater at the hands of gladiators and wild animals.

READING 2: A Vision of the Martyrs Blessing God Who Has Saved Them: Revelation 7:9-12

Reader: Listen to early Christian writers who mused on the meaning and significance of the suffering and martyrdom of their brothers and sisters.

Tertullian, a second-century lawyer who converted when he saw Christians singing as they went out to die, exclaimed, “The blood of the martyrs is seed. Their blood is the seed of new Christians, the seed of the church.”

The third-century bishop Cyprian said, “When persecution comes, God’s soldiers are put to the test, and heaven is open to martyrs. We have not enlisted in an army to think of peace and to decline battle, for we see that the Lord has taken first place in the conflict.”

Augustine wrote, “The martyrs were bound, jailed, scourged, racked, burned, rent, butchered and they multiplied!”

READING 3. The Beatitudes: Matthew 5:1-12

Reader: the daily prayer request from Barnabas Trust or other source.

We recognise that today who suffer for their faith and wish to stand with them and remember them in our prayers. EXCHANGE PRAYER FOR ICHTHYS FISH SYMBOL.

Final prayer:

Faithful One, you call us to pray for our brothers and sisters, who are part of the Church body that is under persecution. Humbly, we confess that we don? know how to pray for them. Lead us, Gracious Spirit, and we will follow. Holy and Just God, we call forth your light for those shut away in darkness for being called your disciples. We seek your strength for those weary with suffering because they name you as Lord. We ask courage for all who stand in danger due to their faith. And we pray comfort, Holy Spirit, for those who grieve the death of loved ones whose beliefs sent them to their graves. O God, as we cry out on their behalf, we stand with them in their suffering. We remember their pain. May they know they are not forgotten. We hold them now in silence before you.

(silence)

In the name of Jesus we pray.

Amen.

FINAL BLESSING

Marked with the sign of the cross in baptism we accept the freedom and power God gives to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. We go forth in the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit to resist the evil and injustice inflicted on others, especially sisters and brothers in Christ. We pray for them. In one another’s company we find ways to act in love toward them. We are sent in Christ’s name.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us now and always.

Amen.

As we were reminded  of the story  of Felicitas and Vibia, the two  well-to-do young women martyred at the hands of gladiators and wild animals for the entertainment of the populace  I asked myself,  “What would I do?” and “Would I be in denial like Peter at the fire – three times before the cock crowed?”

Probably I would side with self-preservation and would find myself a wonderful set of excuses as to why preserving my safety would be in the wider interests of the bigger picture or something of that nature.  But then I have never been in that situation.

I find it really difficult to really imagine those extremes.

In Church, of course, Christians do not persecute each other…….. Well they shouldn’t but safeguarding events tell us different story. Did you know that the diocese deals with dozens of safeguarding queries every month of different levels of severity?

At its lowest level it is about the transfer of power – someone making themselves feel better by making someone else feel worse. That needs exploring in a church context…

Hypothetical situations – not meant to refer to any real persons or situations:

    • The church warden, or wardens who ferment discontent among a congregation against someone else- perhaps the reader, the incumbent or a PCC member who might make a potential church warden in the future and therefore pose a threat. Visiting priests who have volunteered to cover a service can be excellent targets with the seeming end of their decision never to go back.
    • The incumbent who has a particular axe to grind, whether personal or theological and blocks someone else’s vocation by belittling them. This might be belittling the training they might do, belittling their skills, ability to learn  or usefulness.
    • The person in the congregation who ‘through love’ takes it upon themselves to correct what they think is the inappropriate behaviour of someone else. I am sure you can think of many examples of this but it might be to do with relationships, sexuality, the Bible version they use, their lack of volunteering to clean the brass and so on.
    • The teenager who ‘comes out’ as gay or lesbian and is either hounded out of the church, put through ‘conversion therapy’ but certainly has it made known that they are a sinner and ‘in love’ -of course are rejected.  
    • Those who cannot or refuse to appreciate that the Church of England is a wide church with a broad theological base and members are on a wide spectrum with extremes of churchmanship at both ends. Sometimes this can lead to folk feeling hugely troubled because they don’t put the candles in the right place, stand up at the wrong time, lift their hands, don’t lift their hands, pass the peace with a huge hug or cower at the end of a pew and so on.
    • I’m sure readers who get this far in my meanderings can think of many more examples of their own.

And all those are outside the main topics of safeguarding that we talk about in courses! 

Matt’s focus on the persecution of Christians around the world is something we need to keep in our thoughts and our prayers. Equally we must pray for Christians persecuted by ‘Christians’ or  one branch of Islam persecuted by another, and indeed persecution of all people of faith whether Jew or Hindu, Sikh  or buddhist.

Just perhaps we should focus a little more on love and acceptance and  let God take care of the judging! 

 

This October for the Readers Service I have been asked to preach which is a huge privilege.  So I said I would of course! 

Then a week went by and I started thinking about readings  and a sense of mild panic set in- a blank sheet – what readings? I don’t usually choose my own – I have always preached whatever the lectionary has allotted for the week. 

So I asked the Readers in training who initially suggested Isaiah 6:1-8 or 1 Samuel 3:1-21  but while excellent choices for those about to be licensed I wondered if they were a tad obvious. 

I asked the Readers in Training Management Group and Derek suggested on of the old testament harvest readings…. but he couldn’t remember exactly what it was…. 

So what are your thoughts? Any good suggestions serious or teasing, challenging or comforting, suitable or the opposite? Let me know! 

The Subject was raised at the last committee meeting and is connected with workload, working agreements, performance reviews and the wider issues of whether Readers are used well.

 

there follows som views from Readers to get you started on the issues- we’d be delighted to hear from you!

 

 

An Email Discussion…. 

 

Re licensing

 

As suggested, I think that Readers simply just get re-licensed every 3 years from the age of 70.  Forget about the PTO and confusing use of that term in relation to Readers & Clergy. (WE) 

 I think you have pinpointed an Anglican strength which is at the same time a weakness, namely  a reluctance to change. I have long agreed with Wendy’s observation that Readers/ LLM’s could still be licensed on a 3 or 5 years basis after 70 without the change to PTO. This change as far as I can see does nothing to  improve anything, so why?  The fact that it was, as far as I can see, designed to reflect the clergy model does not mean that it should automatically be adopted for Readers. If a reader falls below an acceptable standard and is not able to self diagnose the decline, then the clergy simply cease to use them. The current system is an expensive additional administrative burden and the fact that this is the way it is currently does not mean it has to be the way for the future.

 

Psychologically, there is shift at this 70 point in the way Readers see themselves and the way they can be viewed by the system. Some believe, rightly or wrongly that  they are consigned to the back shelf at this point and only have routine to contribute. I have met many high qualified multi-talented Readers whose skills are often overlooked. After all 70 was set at a time when life expectancy was much lower than it is now.

 

I am certain that there are other things I want to mention but I will have to wait until I have had my morning coffee.

 

Wendy makes a good point, which is reinforced by Don.  Don also makes some good points. 

 

I am in favour of change, but not change for changes sake.  The name we call ourselves should generate or create respect.  Does it? 

 

We were pushed to consider changing our name to Licensed Lay Minister because others were doing it.  I agree that ‘Reader’ is an inappropriate, even an inadequate name.  It has a 150 years behind it and people have come to know what it means even though it is inaccurate as a label.  I advocated using a word, which is more descriptive and equally brief.  I tried and offered some original names and which was ‘kicked into the long grass’. 

 

The use of Licensed Lay Minister is an inadequate job description, not a name and should not be used even though it has become popular in other diocese.  Do we call Vicars, Rectors, clergy ‘Licensed Ordained minister’?  No, of course not – that would be silly.  But we do not hesitate to use this for Readers.  Is there not a name, other than Reader, that can be used?  Surely there are people in academia, who could advise. A Reader could be an LLM before 70 and a PTO-LM after 70. I was admitted as a Reader and then licensed.  I reached 70 and was given the Bishop’s PTO without a license, but still as a Reader.  Wendy’s point makes some sense. 

 

What advantage is there in licensing a Reader before 70?  The argument goes: Exeter is doing it and we should consider it.  Why?  Again, the argument goes that it forces the reader and the priest to confront the Reader’s ministry and ensure that it is adequate.  This presumes that the priest and the Reader do not discuss this – either implicitly or explicitly.  That is a big assumption.  Most clergy and Readers discuss their role in the parish – naturally at the beginning of the priest’s tenure and then through his/her time in the Parish.  There may be some who do not and we want to ensure that everyone does because 5 or 10% do not . . . the innocent must pay for the guilty?  It seems to be a heavy handed approach, lacking in realistically addressing the problem. A lump hammer for a thumb tack.  The other question is who is going to do this job?  There is enough pressure on the Secretary now.  

 

If there is concern in Truro Diocese about the relationship between the clergy and the Reader, then why not address it head on?  The Warden could request a report from a meeting of clergy and Reader every three or five years (the time frame for renewal of licences), with the clergy and the Reader invited to submit private and personal comments on the meeting and their views of the Reader’s role in the Parish.  The Warden can look through it to ensure that everything is going well or that it needs tweaking.  I fully understand the desire to delegate some form of checking by licensing, but it would not achieve the objective and, in the final analysis, the Warden is responsible – in our case (with two Wardens) it might be delegated to the Deputy Warden if the Warden is too busy. 

 

Should we renew Reader licences every three or five years?  Not in my opinion.  The licence given should be left as it is until at least 70. 

 

 

 

There is much work  going on to design Reader Training that will be relevant and useful in coming years. The current cohorts of trainees are in different stages of the Truro Course amalgamating with SWMTC and the links with training ordinands. The draft outline of the new course looks very exciting and is sure to appeal to those who feel a sense of calling to ministry of one sort or another. 

It is envisaged that there will be a new Foundations in Christian Ministry course run locally for all interested that may well serve as the first year of the Reader Course. During that course students will discern whether they want to go on to Reader Ministry, ordination or do something else. 

The Reader course itself has seven residential weekends in Plymouth with the ordinands. Readers would finish on Friday tea time and the ordainees would stay another night and have an extra session on Sunday. 

There are other local seminars, online modules, blog writing and so on which have all to be agreed and slotted in but huge progress has been made and I am sure that new Readers are going to benefit significantly along with their sponsoring churches. 

The course is closely tied in with the Durham University requirements for ratification so the position as Reader as LAy Theologian in underpinned. 

Watch this space for more news…… 

 

Reader Geoff Cox writes, ” just a few minutes ago (7:24 )  I was listening to an interview on radio 4 with  Canon Stephen Pye on the above subject. He had 8 churches in the North of England and was saying the new ruling only accepts what’s happening now which I can understand in some cases. (radio 4  7:25 “Today” Saturday 23rd Feb)   http://keswickstjohn.org.uk/stephen-pye/ 

However all he could talk about was communion services which he could not do. There was no talk of lay led services at all I feel sure that  there would have been some lay led services in a cluster of 8 churches.

Is it just that some of our ordained colleagues do not see a lay contribution as valid services. I could not believe that the lay contribution was not mentioned.

On a more positive not I was very taken by an article in the Reader magazine by a focal Minister in Wales. It seems that at least some places see the value of making a lay minister a focal point of contact in a parish and the fact that he takes baptisms was interesting.”

The annual survey and my conversations with Readers across the diocese shows a very mixed picture, sometimes in the same benefice, with Readers not used or relied upon too heavily and some places where life seems rosey!  If you would like to comment or add to the discussion please drop me a line! Jim

Birthday lunch at the Gurnards Head after a blustery walk along parts of the cliff path,

The Picture of the pub is shamelessly nicked from their website- but there is a link to it from the picture and if you have never been I can recommend it!

We dropped in for coffee at 10:30 and then battled the freshening breeze and enjoying the patches of sunshine until lunchtime. 

Our table was in the main part of the pub rather than the restaurant by the fire and opposite us was a couple.

Now Lez and I have always been people watchers often making up stories about who they are and what they have been doing and so I noticed this pair right away. He looked a businessman perhaps in his 50s and  was pouring rather generous glasses of wine for himself and the young woman who shared his table. 

Father and daughter having a celebratory lunch perhaps or maybe a reunion. 

We ordered our drinks – ginger beer for me as I was driving (and actually wanted to be awake for the afternoon.) their meals arrived and more wine poured  As the weather was good the pub was very busy and so lunch proceeded at a very leisurely pace and by the time our orders arrived the couple had finished theirs and were deep in conversation – he was doing much of the talking- she leaning forward and stroking his fingers as they were wrapped around the stem of his glass…… it is hard not to look when its only 6 feet away and right in front of you. 

Work colleagues- the boss treating his doting personal assistant – or perhaps as it was a Friday they were on the first day of a weekend ‘conference’ …… 

While she went off to the ladies he poured the remainder of the bottle of wine into his glass and drained it and signalled to the hostess that he wanted another bottle of the same vintage to take out. “I hope he’s not driving,”  I whispered to Lez.

Their bill paid he got his car keys ready and left while we awaited our pudding.

My thoughts were several ranging from: I hope he’s breathalysed to I bet he’s the owner of the flash silver merc parked across the front of the pub -rather than in the car park. 

 

……….continued

I reminded myself that I was being both harsh and judgemental especially because I had decided it was most definitely an illicit affair and that someone was going to get hurt and hoped he was not going to show off in his merc with the best part of two thirds of a bottle of wine in his system. 

But….. there may have been a taxi waiting….. it could still have been an innocent family reunion….. but is was easier and more satisfying to judge.

That was chastening as I had been taking the moral high ground all week on the story of the Shamima Begum which has stirred up so much controversy. A priest I know commented, “Oh I tell people she should be allowed back but collected from the airport by Prince Philip.’

A Reader queried why she should be allowed back – after all she would be on social security and given a house with our money! That she ‘had made her bed and ought to be made to lie in it’ seems to be a common opinion – an eye for an eye and all that.

So I asked some questions this week in social media and in discussion:

  • Is she a victim of sex trafficking, having been radicalised while still a child at 15?
  • Is there any wonder that she does not show remorse at some of the crimes of Islamic State when she will have  been brainwashed for the past four years or so.
  • Should she not come back and face the consequences?

In the end of course, her citizenship revoked, she remains stateless and wandering and bringing up a baby boy who eventually might prove a greater problem. Time will tell.

But I don’t know the answer- merely felt that I should ask the questions in the interests of fairness…….. and because of the Gospel. 

The Gospel not as an afterthought but because it underpins our way of life. Jesus tells us not to judge, to forgive, to give our coat, to turn the other cheek but us humans  are really good at finding ways around it……. “She shows no remorse,” “there are other folks on whom we should spend the resources that she would receive” and so on. 

And, after all is said and done we like to be affronted, to have something to complain about, to judge and find a soap opera drama in real life….

I hope that father and daughter enjoyed the taxi ride to St Ives station to meet Mum travelling down to meet daughter’s new partner and arrange the wedding.  There- that’s better….. a happy ending.

The silver merc had gone when we left for home.

The Advent Quiet Day at Epiphany House on December 7th will be led by Reader Garth Wright who has recently taken on the task of minister to the third order of St Francis in Cornwall.

The day is entitled ‘Franciscan Spirituality’ and I am really looking forward to it. 

We suggest a donation of £10 towards the cost of hiring Epiphany House and for the refreshments on arrival and at lunchtime. Please bring your own packed lunch.

I am now governors for two schools!  My grandchildren pictured above (winning a young detectives event) go to schools in the Crofty Multi Academy Trust.

The most recent is where I have been drafted in to help build a local governing board and prepare it for inspection sometime in the near future.

At the chair’s a meeting for the multi academy trust of which both my schools are part, we asked who had vacancies for governors in their schools. Three of us had five or more vacancies which means a lot more work for those governors that we do have.

Please please do consider supporting your local schools and are offering yourselves for this very important role. It can be very rewarding and a unique access to an important part of your local community.

I’m particularly interested to hear from anyone within reasonable distance of Camborne-Redruth but happy to talk to anyone about the role of governor.

I now have two directees so I can call myself a spiritual director,  although in all honesty the word ‘director’ is an inadequate title for what I actually do  as I spend most of the time listening and the directing is more like the very occasional  gentle suggestion of things that the directee might like to experience such as a constructing a personal spiritual timeline or a trying a style of prayer.

It is however a great privilege to sit and listen to people searching their hearts for 90 minutes in a quest for a deeper understanding of their faith and certainly a vocation that I feel called to.

Interestingly I find myself  between spiritual directors and looking for a new one. More on the search in blogs to follow. Currently I am praying that one will just turn up!

On March 20 I have been asked to be chaplain for a prayer and painting quiet day at epiphany house with Maureen Edwards.

My role is to do the opening and closing worship on a prayer and painting theme and to the available to chat to during the day.

I’m hoping that there will be folks who really will want to chat so I don’t have to do too much painting that  other folk might get to look at it so well as of my comfort zone. Give me a story to tell and that’s my art!    A paintbrush feels quite alien even after 30 years in primary classrooms.

Places can be booked through epiphany house and there’s more information on the Quiet Days page of this website (under the Prayer heading!).

 

In January a three person evaluation team descended on the readers in training course to assess its efficacy!

I met two of the team on three occasions, the management team meeting, the tutorial staff meeting and at the Saturday Day School. The picture features Jeremy Putnam leading what I thought was a fantastic day on Community.

At that time of writing I have not heard anything about to the report but the process was an interesting one and, though likened to OFSTED, it was a much more conversational affair. The assessors were astute and asked probing questions that certainly got the grey cells working.

I think one of the development points that might come to the fore  is how we promote  reader ministry, especially with younger folk.

The diocesan website is a convoluted maze at best and there does need to be a clear message about what a reader ministry is and why folk should consider it as a vocation.

Your suggestions please! I will collate the best and put them on the website!

 

Morning session – 2 options.

I am really looking forward to Reader Day this year – especially as I quite fancy the walk! 

Hopefully Bishop Philip will be able to be there as well for our question time session in the afternoon which should be really interesting. 

The planning group (not me) met recently and below is there draft planning – lots of hard work and great ideas! Thank you all! 

 

Option 1 – a walk to Nanstallon.  Organized by Margaret Sylvester-Thorne –

led by Bishop Chris.

This is a good flat walk with only little road walking involved.  The walk is along the rail path.  It is anticipated that the walk would take about an hour each way – walking past Bodmin Jail may be pause for a prayer either on the way out or on the return

Expect to leave St Petroc’s by 10.30 and arrive about 11.30 at Nanstallon Church.

(Ann to liaise with Nanstallon: have church open, to see if tea and coffee could be supplied; to find out if there is telephone reception, find out about toilets.  If necessary speak to Methodist re using their facilities. Donation to Nanstallon for refreshments (out of Reader budget).  To find out if there is telephone reception at St Petrocs.

11.30 to Noon: refreshments and a short service. 

It is anticipated that Bishop Philip will walk – but it would be good if he could join those in church rather than walk back.  (transport needed).

To be aware that some may need to return to St Petroc’s rather than walk both ways.  Need first aid kit and telephone.

Option 2 – to be a Pilgrim in St Petroc’s

for those who are unable or don’t want to walk. – led by Carrie & William

10.30 to 11.30 activities in church (organized through Nigel Marns) Prayer stations with activities on the theme of being a Pilgrim.  Also Together we Walk – a pilgrimage in Church.

11.30 to Noon – refreshments and the same short service as at Nanstallon Church.

(this is to link both groups)

Noon until Pilgrims return – Lunch

On Pilgrims Return have lunch together – grace

1.45 – AGM

2pm – Witness statements on being a Reader – 4 each lasting 5 mins on own experience of being a Reader.  This needs to be balanced – not a dig at parish priests.

2.20 – 2.40 over to Bishop Philip chance to speak to the Readers

2.40 – 3.00 – opportunity to ask Bishop Philip questions. (have questions sent in

3.00 – Cream Tea

3.30 – Bishop Chris – and Closing Blessing (pilgrim)

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