Readers are lay people who have been called by God and are trained and licensed to preach, teach and lead worship.
As a result of our calling, and after a lot of studying, Alister and I were licensed by Archbishop Sentamu. There are more than 10,000 active Readers in the Church of England. Alister and I are licensed to work in Hambleton, Haddlesey and Birkin….. but some Readers are chaplains in prisons, hospitals, hospices or schools, a few are in charge of parishes.
Readers give their services to the Church so do not receive payment
Readers were originally created as ‘Lectors’ in the time of Elizabeth I, when there were not enough priests of the new Protestant faith to be allocated to each parish (‘Lector’ comes from the Latin for ‘Read’). When there was no priest to take a Service in a church, suitable men of ‘sober behaviour and sufficient learning’ were licensed to read the Service of Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer from the new Prayer Book. In those days they were not allowed to preach, merely to read the Service. The Office of Lector had died out by the time of Oliver Cromwell (17th century).
The Office was resurrected in 1866 when the Bishop of Gloucester licensed the first modern ‘Reader’, so 2016 is the 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF READERSHIP.
At first only men were allowed to become Readers, but by 1968 it was acknowledged that God calls woman too, and the ratio of men to women is now about equal. Gradually over time, the duties of the Reader have been expanded so we are allowed to lead the whole Service and do much as a priest can (including entering the Sanctuary!), except we cannot ‘preside’ at Holy Communion (bless the bread and wine), take marriages and baptisms, absolve sins, or give a blessing.
So Rev. Anna’s ministry is principally concerned with the Sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Communion, the absolving of sins, and ‘pastoral care’ for the souls of those in her parish.
My Reader’s ministry is principally concerned with Teaching about Christianity to the children in our school and Preaching plus leading Services such as ‘Family’ Services. As a Reader I am licensed to take funerals, and assist the priest at Holy Communion, Baptism and Marriage Services.
Our calling is a separate ministry and we are trained in Theology and Ministry, often on the same 4 year course as priests, but at the end we are not ordained (set-apart) but remain part of the laity, supporting ourselves through full-time employment or in my case a pension! If you think you may have a calling to become a Reader, go on line to the Readers website and learn more about our work for the church.