Lay Reader Conference 2022: The Prophetic Voice?

Pat Ellison, third year Lay Reader candidate from the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness, reflects upon last weekend’s Lay Readers’ Conference:

Lay Readers from across the Province met in Perth for the weekend of 28-30 October, and for the first time for a period of years, taking as their theme an exploration of the Prophetic Voice. Thanks to the kind hospitality of St Ninian’s Cathedral, we were able to meet, worship and learn together – as well as eating the delicious supper cooked by the Provost, The Very Reverend Hunter Farquharson, on Friday evening – thank you. 

A range of workshops was provided by colleagues, sharing their expertise on funeral ministry, the psalms, inclusive liturgy – and we were engagingly led and challenged by our keynote speaker, Rt Revd Martyn Snow, Bishop of Leicester, who is the Episcopal Champion for Lay Ministry in the Church of England. Alongside Paula Gooder, herself a Lay Reader, Bishop Martyn has helped develop a renewed vision of lay ministry. You can read more about this in Resourcing Sunday to Saturday Faith (just google it, it’s a free download) where in 2018 the writers issued a challenge both to the Church and to Readers/Lay Ministers themselves – to discern and reform the way that our faith is modelled and taught in the places where people live and work as well as in church.

In three workshops, he nudged us to think about how people come to understand what the Christian faith looks like, how people learn and grow within it, and how lay ministry fits. Intriguingly, he distinguished between the role of the ordained minister as ‘gathering people around the communion table’ and lay ministers ‘having their feet in other networks’. That sounds like an essay question for somebody sometime.

It was warming to meet others and to hear about their ministry – challenges and joys shared. It was great to be in with an energised discussion about Reader ministry as well as to hear the concerns of others, articulating the wish for that discussion to be more widely shared. Some of the words used were animator, facilitator, enabler, and repeated often, teacher with all the proper nuances and caveats about how people learn.

And it was inspiring to hear my own Warden of Readers, Patsy Thomson, a member of SEI Council of course, preach with such passion and indignation about injustice and inequality, modelling the prophetic voice with a little help from Habakkuk –

The Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.

Collage showing colleagues at work and at leisure, Bishop Martyn,
our preacher in procession and the vote of thanks from Lis Burke, Warden
of Readers for St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, to the Cathedral Provost.
Photos courtesy of Pat Ellison