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25th May 2005
More thoughts on Reader Ministry
Some comments on Ronnie King's article - Recycling Reader Ministry
I started reading Ronnie King’s thoughts on Reader ministry with interest, but soon became disappointed. I think Mr King needs to take the words of his new Bishop rather more seriously. What he describes as a cure for the desperate situation of rural parishes in his dioceses sounds to me like another attempt to shore up a model of church that cannot be sustained and should be changed; there is nothing revolutionary in these ideas at all.
It is a shame that Hereford Diocese has so few Readers in training, but I suspect that the diminishing congregations of mostly elderly people are the cause not the effect. It doesn’t have to be like that. If the few people there are spend all their energy on maintaining old models of being church in which the only person who can do anything is the vicar, then things will get worse not better.
What is needed is an active laity who welcome a priest when one is available, but who take on themselves the responsibility of being the church in their own village. If they are mostly the retired people that Mr King describes then they have the time and years of experience to be Christ’s representatives to the people they live amongst. To say that a village is without pastoral care when there is no Vicar or Reader is an insult to every Christian person in that village. It should be a normal part of Christian life to care for ones neighbours. Of course there will be times when a serious matter requires expert help, but there is no guarantee that the local clergy will be any more expert than their parishioners.
It is time to get rid of the model of church that makes everything revolve around ‘The Vicar’ or God forbid ‘The Reader’, or ‘Parochial Deacon’– a cheaper model that can’t do quite as many tricks. As Bishop John Robinson said ‘The laity are not the helpers of the clergy, so that they can do their job. The clergy are the helpers of the laity so that they can be the Church in the world.’
Clergy and Readers should be encouraging, training and enabling every church member regardless of age, to be evangelists, pastoral carers, leaders of worship etc. The newly retired should be the powerhouse of a reinvigorated church. They have the time to pray, to listen, to visit, and to share the gospel with others, which those in full time work or bringing up families do not. Let’s start using all those God given talents that are going to waste in the pews. Jesus came to turn the world upside down, so let’s put all our resources into helping him, not just the talents of a few Readers and Clergy, but the whole church of God.