Clergy and Readers

Around 300 clergy minister to communities across the diocese. A similar number of around 300 active Readers (lay ministers) support these ministers in ministry to churches and communities. All hold the Bishop’s licence to preach and lead worship.


All people ordained for religious service are clergy. A person accepted for ordination is first ordained as a deacon. Usually after a year, a deacon is ordained as a priest; however, some people are called to remain life-long distinctive deacons.

Priests can do many different jobs including: parish priest, chaplain or ordained pioneer minister. Curates are priests in their first 3-4 years of ordination. Rector, vicar, priest-in-charge indicate the status of the priest in relation to the church, parish or benefice. Often the relationship is historic but it may indicate some differences in law, as to what the priest may do.

Information on training and development opportunities, including Continuing Ministerial Development, for Bath and Wells clergy is available in the Ministry for Mission Training section.


Readers (formerly often known as Lay Readers) are lay ministers who are trained theologians. They hold a Bishop’s licence to preach, lead services and undertake pastoral work. When leading worship they generally wear cassock and surplice and the distinctive blue Reader scarf. In some dioceses, Readers are known as Licensed Lay Ministers.

On a typical week in Bath and Wells, Readers preach over 100 sermons and lead, or help lead, over 200 services. Readers have a significant pastoral role as well. They visit people in their homes, take communion to the housebound and work in our schools and colleges. Some work with the bereaved and lead funerals. Read more about Reader ministry.

Who may minister?

There is sometimes confusion about what should happen when a parish invites someone to minister on an occasional basis. For instance, a church might invite someone to conduct a wedding or funeral, for example, or lead services in a vacancy.

Worshippers need to know that a properly authorised person is conducting the service. This gives them the same confidence in him or her as they have in their own parish priest. Authorised ministers will have a DBS check and hold the Bishop’s licence.

Two documents are available for download below which explain the current position under Canon Law and under safeguarding good practice. You may like to share the shorter Who may minister? paper with those around you involved in inviting clergy to visit. The longer paper sets out the legal position for more detailed reference.

Who to contact

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