Every year, Readers are required to complete an appraisal which constitutes three parts – a performance assessment, a training evaluation, and a statistical analysis of what they each do. This appraisal helps Readers to gain a sense of what and how they’re doing in the role. Chris Stock, Deanery Warden of Readers in the Ivelchester Deanery, has written a tongue-in-cheek article about the latest statistical analysis.
What have Readers ever done for us?
(With apologies to Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’. All names used are entirely fictitious . . . . .)
The most venerated Seemon was enjoying a bowl of gruel with his 3 centurions, so called because they each guide over 100 Readers, 321 in the Diocese in total. They were meetingat the Olde Inne in Welle, where Seemon, Centurion Pilgrim Grahamus, Centurion Metropolis Trevor and Centurion Erithacus Rubecula, were discussing Reader strategy and the MMXVI Reader activity report (the MMXVII report has not yet been compiled); suddenly they were interrupted by an unruly group demanding change and answers.
These ‘unwashed’ interlopers wanted to know what those people wearing blue scarves were doing in our churches, and having gained a presence in the church building, what were they doing in the parishes? Indeed, were they trying to take over the church? Were they Papists of some sort? Shouldn’t priests be ‘up front’ in churches anyway? The ‘unwashed’ spokesmen were called Ignoramus and Doubtous Thomasus.
What’s that you’re reading? Is it yet more secret propaganda and nonsense from some ivory tower?
And who are all these people we see in our churches wearing blue scarves? What’s their point? And you allow them to go to the front of the church and tell us what to think? Well, I tell you, I’m not having it!
If they want the limelight, then I want it as well! I’m as bright and intelligent as them lot! I might want to change their dresses though!
And they do other things that you should be doing – you are priests, aren’t you? Shouldn’t you be doing everything? What are you paid for?
So what have the Readers done for us?
Seemon (very patiently):
Readers are theologically trained over 4 years before being licensed, and work under the direction of their incumbent. In MMXVI, they preached on 4,158 occasions, that’s an average of 13 times a year each, or 80 sermons every Sunday.
Huh! 4 years training to stand up and talk! You’re going to tell me that’s ‘Telling the story’ are you?
Well preaching is only part of their story – they also led 4,205 services and assisted leading a further 4,523, whether that be Morning or Evening Prayer, Family services, Carol services, Memorial services, Remembrance Day services . . . . . .
OK, OK, so they talk a lot, but what have the Readers ever done for us?
An important and much valued part of their ministry is in leading or co-leading funerals, either in church or at the crematorium or even interring ashes. This isn’t something every Reader wants to do, but those that do play an important part in looking after the bereaved. At a time when different forms of funeral are increasingly being made available, having Readers involved in 588 last year is an important element to the church’s response to secularity of bereavement care.
But that’s the dead – I’m still living!
Which is why Readers also minister to you. Again in MMXVI, Readers were involved in 602 school or college worship events, they led communion services for 1,726 who are housebound, or in residential care (so inevitably administered the sacrament to many more), or in hospital. We’re not quite sure how many pastoral visits Readers undertake, but we do know it’s in the many thousands. Oh, and they’ve led some 1,826 Bible study sessions as well.
OK, OK, so they talk a lot, they do funerals, and schools and the housebound, but what have the Readers ever done for us?
Centurion Metropolis (indignantly):
If you bothered to listen . . . .
Dear Metropolis, just calm down dear! If people don’t understand, then we must explain better.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that Readers each ‘do’ an average of 60 things per year as we’ve mentioned, but that doesn’t really pick up what they really do to ‘Live the story’. And that is amazing in its own right.
The list of things that Readers do is endless, whether it’s volunteering as school governors, presenting on local radio, helping those with learning and other disabilities, helping children learn to read, recording for talking newspapers, working with travelers, contributing to art groups, being trustees of local organisations, or contributing to a plethora of other community activities.
We find them as chaplains in cathedrals, hospitals, to the armed forces and the emergency services, in prisons, at Gay Pride events, and even at holiday camps.
Inside the church itself, they serve on PCCs (including as Chair / Treasurer / Secretary or even as Churchwardens), on Deanery Mission & Pastoral Groups, on Deanery & Diocesan Synods, leading Exploring Christianity courses, organising quiet days, involved in local ministries ranging from in ‘the pub’ to ‘walking the dog’ to ‘café church’ or . . . ., they are active in charitable work both in this country and overseas, they help or run parish magazines, they prepare candidates for baptism, confirmation and marriage, they are involved in a wide variety of music activities . . . . . ., the list is endless.
OK, OK, OK, so they talk a lot, they do funerals, and schools work and the housebound, and they’re involved in their communities, but what have the Readers ever done for us?
What they do, Ignoramus and Doubtous Thomasus is provide a form of theologically trained, unremunerated, licensed, lay ministry across the Diocese and beyond that is simply indispensable; without them, the church would find it very difficult to reach as far as it does, and society would be a far poorer place without them.
That’s what Readers do for us!
Is that all?
Chris Stock, January 2018