It will be a great joy to welcome our Reader community to the Cathedral this coming Saturday for our Annual Reader Day and, in the afternoon, our Annual Service during which Bishop Rachel will be admitting three new Readers who have now completed their training.
Readers have a long and distinguished history of ministry and play a significant part in the ministry of the church today and we owe them a great debt of thanks. Of course, their ministry is significant for all they do in preaching, teaching, pastoral care and, more recently, in pioneer ministry. It is, however, equally significant for what Readers are. Readers, who are lay ministers, remind the whole church that the task of ministry, the task of leadership in the church, is one that is both diverse and shared. As the ordination service puts it:
The Church is the Body of Christ, the people of God and the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God’s love and to work for the coming of his kingdom.
Readers are a visible reminder to the whole church that each of us, by virtue of our baptism, is called to play our part within the Body of Christ in sharing and living life in all its fullness. Readers are a reminder to us all that the heart of ministry is always collaborative.
This said, like the rest of the church, Readers are living in the midst of great change. Recent years have seen the welcome development of a great diversity of ministries, worship leaders, pioneers, ministries of service to those in need, and ministry in music and hospitality. Where once Reader ministry was fairly much the only avenue for those wanting to exercise a ministry but not feeling a call to ordination, there are increasing opportunities, many locally discerned and commissioned, in the parishes of communities of the diocese. Yet Reader ministry remains distinctive within this. They have committed themselves to a extensive programme of theological study and preparation and, as those to be admitted this coming Saturday will do, make solemn promises to dedicate themselves to this ministry.
I am sure that Reader ministry, like the ministry of clergy and others, will continue to change over the coming years, but as we gather this year, Bishop Rachel and I want to express our thanks to them on behalf of the whole church, to celebrate the ministry that they exercise and rejoice in the example of collaborative, diverse ministry that they set before us. Please join us in giving thanks and praying for them and celebrating the ministry we share.