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Reader Ministry around the Church

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5th September 2005
What is it really like training to be a Reader in the Church of England today?
Chris Andrew's experiences of a first year's training.
I am 39 years old, married for 13 years, with one daughter who is 8 years old, and a Teaching Assistant working with the integration of children with special educational needs in a mainstream primary school.

In July 2005 I completed the first year of three of the WEMTC (West of England Ministerial Training Course). If I complete a further two years successfully, I will be licensed and admitted to the office of Reader, sometime in 2007. However, there are no guarantees and I am continuously being assessed and evaluated as to my suitability to this type of ministry. The following is an excerpt from my first sermon on 12th June 2005.

“On the 12th June 2004, a year ago this very day, I was beginning my selection interviews to become a Lay Reader. The day would decide whether I was to be accepted or not accepted for 3 years training which, if successful, would lead to my licensing by the Bishop of Gloucester. It was a very challenging day where I was asked deep and probing questions about home, church and work and the relationship of God with each other. At the end I came away not knowing whether it was a “Yes” or a “No”, and when I got a phone call that afternoon my life would never quite be the same again.

If there is one thing I have learnt in my first year of training it is that the pressure between home, church and work intensifies in a way which I as yet have not got used to and perhaps never will. It will be no surprise to any of you that to train as a reader in the Diocese of Gloucester and indeed, in the Church of England, in general, is hard and uncompromising. The tension and struggle between home, church and work is unique to every Reader but in fact, I believe it is where the true value of my own ministry is and will be found. A Reader’s ministry is one that is walked within the church and outside the church and through that dual walk, I hope that is where I will be able to make my contribution to our church community here in this parish”.

The whole training process is a testing ground and quite a long one at that. The relationship between home, church and work is one that I am continuously developing and involves much prayer, academic work and support from my family. However, this has to be so, because of the responsibility and nature of the office to which I am being called. I feel a sense of achievement that I have made it through the first year. I have come such a long way. I have developed through many different assignments; it has been very challenging at times though.

The WEMTC course offers regionally based training and leads to an award of a certificate in Christian Theology and Ministry validated by the University of Gloucestershire. Readers are trained through WEMTC for the Dioceses of Gloucester and Hereford and training at WEMTC is normally for three years and involves

  • Thursday evening classes
  • Weekend residential events
  • Placements
  • Saturday workshops
  • Individually guided skills development
  • Personal and spiritual formation

    See the WEMTC course content on

    The saddest thing I have heard, only a few days ago, was that a fellow Reader-in-Training has decided that they will not be continuing for the second year. This is a reminder of how fragile the journey we have embarked upon is and whatever the reason for their withdrawal, it must have been a very difficult decision. It brings us back to the fact that we are really being tested for our suitability.

    I have found that as a Reader-in-Training over the last year, my personal discipline of prayer, bible study and worship has deepened and continues to deepen. I have become more competent in leading worship, reading lessons and leading prayers of intercession. I have increased my confidence in planning informal acts of worship; I hope I will be able to lead more in the next year. I have developed my preaching skills. I have learnt how to handle biblical passages and craft a sermon and deliver it. I have strengthened my relationships with others, especially my fellow parishioners. I have developed more collaborative working with the parish and ministry teams, most importantly my incumbent. I have also developed my teaching skills over the last year, especially with the children of our church.

    There is much more to come and to learn in the next academic year, starting in September 2005 and if I survive until July 2006, it will be time to reflect again on another year's training.

    Almighty God, who has given me the will to undertake this Reader training, grant me also the strength to complete it. May I finish this work which you have begun in me, through Jesus Christ our Lord.


    Chris Andrew
    27th July 2005
Contact name Chris Andrew


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