Here endeth my Reader Ministry

Today, Pentecost 2013 marks the end of my Reader Ministry.

2013-05-17 14.23.56cw-x
Ramtopsrac: Church of England Reader – 3rd Oct 2009 – 19th May 2013

The different diocese of the Anglican church are not known for their consistency in approach to patterns of, or peoples development through, different ministries. But in the Diocese of Winchester the rule is normally that if you are a Reader selected for ordination training, then you are asked to surrender your license as you start college.

The idea is that this change of status marks and somehow enables the change in that slightly nebulous, unexplainable, but very important element of ordination training that goes by the name ‘formation’. I have to say that this has seem a rather odd idea which I really haven’t understood.

The observant or regular follower of this blog will note that I’ve completed nearly a year of my two-year ordination training, and yet I am only surrendering my Reader License today. The intention was that, agreed by my vicar and Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO), by keeping my license I could continue to take funerals and therefore support that element of ministry within my parish; funerals were the only thing I couldn’t do as an ordinand that the Reader License enabled me to do. Except, I haven’t in fact taken a funeral since about last July – it’s just the way things worked out.

However, being asked to surrender my Reader License today, suddenly feels very significant.

Partly, it’s because I know how important my Reader ministry, and funerals in particular, were to my discerning my calling to the priesthood. I may have said before, but I had to be a Reader to understand my calling to the priesthood.

However, despite retaining my license till today, I have (at the request of my DDO) undertaken so little ‘ministerial’ practice in the parish (I’ve not preached since August last year) that when I led our Ash Wednesday service at St. Peter’s, some people were surprised because they thought I’d already left the parish!

And I’ve hated that. I’ve hated not being able to, or allowed to, do those things that were so important to me as minister, and so important to my discernment process. Not having the chance to preach has been like having a limb cut off – I’ve not engaged in-depth with individual chunks of Bible for months!

Equally I know that the advice was probably sound; I have struggled so much academically this year that the additional load of active parish ministry would probably have been the straw that broke the camels back. (I’ll try and explain that better in another blog post soon.)

What I’m wondering now is that, since this comes at the end of a week of sorting out with my tutors some academic niggles, and actually falls just a fortnight before I do at last preach again but as an ordinand, finally surrendering my Reader License will after all mark a significant turning point in my emotional engagement and the confidence I exhibit in myself, within in my ordination training.

When I wrote about my licensing in 2009 I talked about things feeling ‘right’, and in God’s timing, and about starting out on a fresh new journey, again. Possibly surrendering my Reader License is something I should have done months ago, but actually it’s something that feels ‘right’ for now, for a point where I’m finally getting some grip on what it is that I can realistically achieve academically in ordination training, and at last feel some sense of excitement as to what God has in store for me within that, and within the active ministry that will follow ordination next year.



  1. It marks a turning point in your transition from Reader to Ordinand, because although you’ve been training for Ordination since last September, perhaps it hasn’t felt that way as you are non-residential. It might make that further step of full integration into the cohort that little bit more difficult. Surely, it’s another step in formation for Ordained Ministry, rather than a retrograde step?

    To me, it seems the right time to make that step, but is surprises me that you haven’t engaged with the bible in the way you would have done as a Reader? Or perhaps that comes later in the process?

    I can see some similarities in the difficulties that I’m having getting some form of discernment for a new lay ministry in my benefice. Because I’m not residential, not on tap so to speak, it makes that last, final integration into the benefice a little bit stretched. If I’m needed at short notice, it’s a 54 mile journey………. But today, I was needed to assist at one service and to lead intercessions at another, at short notice. That was OK, because on a Sunday I’m on the patch and available. But somehow, it makes any service I offer to be a little bit of my choice, rather than serving the needs of the parish?

    I will be praying for you as you move forward to this next stage of your formation and training. May the Spirit of Pentecost be with, alongside and within you as you strive to serve in your role as an Ordinand and in future ministry as a Priest.


  2. I must admit I hadn’t heard of this before but it does seem a good idea, for all the reasons you have outlined. It’s also great that you have been able to approach it in your own time, even if that wasn’t the original intention!


  3. I’m glad you managed to keep the licence this long! I remain unconvinced by “one size fits all” rulings on matters of ministry. I think it is perhaps also (more??) about learning our own boundaries and limitations, and realising we don’t need to do everything to be worthy! But ther is also the pattern that sometimes, unless we lay something down there is no space to take up anything new.
    But now that you have given up your licence, and knowing God’s sense of humour, what are the odds on a funeral that someone want you to take coming up shortly??!! (and yes, there are ways around this!)


  4. Really interesting – on all sorts of fronts. As a Reader, I kept up my licence til the next triennium – which turned out to mean that I was on the books til the winter before my ordination. As a non residential student I was expected to “keep up my flying hours” by preaching in my sending parishes at least twice a term, though I did of necessity step right back from all the other ministries with which I was involved…One of them, an apparently successful after -school club, folded immediately, which was very painful. I think this whole re-shaping thing is just deeply uncomfortable (and continues to be, at each time of transition). Hugs and a prayer as you negotiate yours x


  5. You’re ordained by Christ, not an org. I realize you don’t know me, but this is what I feel purposed to say. Jesus didn’t wear robes, sit in a throne, prove a license. On the night of his death he stripped naked, and later, the veil of religion was rent in two. He was the last priest–Heb. 7:17. If he has called you, as he did Abraham, Joseph, (whose brethren threw him into pits, go figure!) John Baptist, Mary, and Mary Magdeline. Well you get my drift. Go quiet, listen to the still small voice. It’s not Anglican (though it may speak in that language, if that is yours.) Remember, Eve was the brave one, she took the chance on enlightenment. ~ Peace.


  6. Thank you for your comments, encouragement and prayers. So far no funeral has loomed up suddenly, but there is some sense of release I’d not expected – I suspect from hanging on to the old ministry like a child holding a familiar item. I think perhaps my incumbent and I over-reacted to the “don’t let me do anything in the parish” request, as the college certainly encourage preaching twice a term.

    Minidvr – we have frequently referred to the Bible in training, don’t worry, Cuddesdon isn’t that heretical! And I will be doing an Old Testament module later in the year. I’ve been encouraged to look at broader areas like spirituality and pastoral care, to balance out my previous Reader Training, which was much more skills based, and Bible in hand much of the time! But it’s just not the same as grappling with one or more Bible passages in detail several times a month – tough, a real struggle at times (like now) but equally a discipline I’ve really missed.


  7. This is a late reply which I do aplogise for, but I have found your posts on Reader Ministry and being an Ordinand really helpful. I’ve been exploring vocation to ordained ministry, but the DDO seems unsure (after 18 months of talking!) and has suggested Reader Ministry, which I did look at a while back. I especially your comment, “but I had to be a Reader to understand my calling to the priesthood.” very helpful. I’m not sure what will happen next, but to know and read about other peoples experiences is very helpful. Thanks you.


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