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4th May 2009
Readers Swoop on Bradford
Reader officials and representatives from around the Church of England descended on Bradford for this years CRC AGM.
The Annual General Meeting of the Central Readers Council was held over the weekend 24th to 26th of April in Bradford. Although I have been a Reader since 1994, this is the first time I have been involved in the wider picture. It was a joy to meet fellow Readers from all over the country and to realise that some of the issues, frustrations or joys are common to us all. I came away from the weekend not only personally enthused and encouraged but with real sense of purpose. There are many Readers out there who are committed to the role they play within the church. They are positive about their ministry, feeling privileged to lead worship, preach and teach in their communities but also willing to listen to God, to develop their gifts as they try to discern their role in today’s world. In the discussions and meetings many issues were raised and to me, as a new rep, some seemed almost unimportant – just my personal opinion and said with humility. Others however, were challenging and thought provoking, evidence that Reader ministry is alive and moving forward.

The meeting began on Friday evening with addresses from both the retiring Chair, Bishop Graham Dow and the retiring Vice-chair, Canon Ron Black. The report into Reader ministry, Reader Upbeat, was the focus of Bishop Graham’s address. He felt that at the heart of the report is the feeling that Readers are in a ‘no-mans-land’ between licensed and unlicensed lay ministries and ordained clergy. There is a world of difference between the ideal and what happens on the ground and working practice combined with allocation of resources, often gives the impression that in the eyes of the church ‘ordained is best’!

Bishop Graham highlighted five main areas where he sees Readers ministry: Catechismal, Pastoral, Pioneer, Chaplaincies and General ministerial work. The opportunities are immense and urged us to ‘just get out there…we are not a church for ourselves but for those around us’. He concluded by urging us to discover, and then follow, where our gifts take us.

Ron Black pointed out that we live in changing times - but not to be worried by this because ‘to live is to change’. Life is a continuing process that brings growth and we need to remember that there are three stages in the work of God: impossible, difficult and done!

Saturday’s business began with the section meetings – wardens, secretaries and representatives. A variety of topics were discussed, including:
  • Chaplaincy. This area had been mentioned in Bishop Graham’s address the previous evening and one of the delegates asked how could Readers get involved in this area. As chaplains we go under the authority of the church and so the initial approach to an organisation should be made on our behalf by our incumbent or Bishop - ‘they break the ice for us’. The ‘world is crying out for spiritual representatives’.
  • Involvement of Readers in training and selection. Practice varies in each diocese. Some Readers were involved with mentoring trainees or were on selection panels. Readers need to be also involved in the discernment process for those exploring ministry.
  • Working relationships with incumbents. There is a need for Readers to have pastoral care beyond their incumbent. Readers should be involved when appointing a new priest to a parish - practice varied but Bishop Graham urged us to be pro-active when in the situation by getting in touch with our bishop or archdeacon and asking if we can at least feed into the discussion.

    Saturday morning concluded with the business meeting where various reports were heard and officers appointed. Full details of these appointments will appear on the Reader website.

    The work of Saturday concluded with feedback from the sections. A key issue which
    arose from the Wardens’ meeting was the need for a cohesive response to Reader Upbeat . It was decided that there needs to be some process of reporting back before the 2010 synod. It was agreed that the CRC ought to help manage the process. As well as discussing various issues relating to their administrative tasks, the secretaries also looked at the involvement of Readers in the appointment of new incumbents.

    During discussion Bishop Robert, the new chair, suggested that we sometimes ‘do not help ourselves’ – and pointed out that the more we appear to complain the less notice will be taken! We must have confidence in ourselves and our role. Bishop Robert also felt that every deployable public minister needs a working agreement as they provide benefits and protection for us.

    Bihop Robert had invited suggestions for the first priority of the CRC in the coming five years. He categorised these as mission and theology (selected as the top priority), support, authorised/licensed public ministry, Reader Upbeat, ‘Young and Old’, communication and general. He observed that there are those who focus on the bigger picture and those who look in depth at a smaller, more intense image. He felt we can get too trapped by this small outlook and urged us all to be less narrow in our concerns and focus, to look at issues in a wider sense. He pointed out that our faith and relationship with God is very precious to each one of us and that is why we are sometimes afraid of doing this – rejection hurts the core of our being.

    The website was mentioned at various times throughout the weekend. It is an excellent resource and we need to use it! Not only does it provide information and resources but offers a forum – a great way to share experiences and talk to fellow readers throughout the country.

    Follow the link below for photographs from the AGM.
Website www.readers.cofe.anglican.org/news_item.php?92
Contact name Jane Robertson (Lincoln)
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