It was on 7th May 1969 that Canon Law in the Church of England was changed to make it clear that women and men could be admitted and licensed as Readers. Readers are lay people in the Church of England who are trained to share in public representative ministry with ordained clergy colleagues. The emerging renewed vision for Reader Ministry focuses on three particular focuses for this licensed lay ministry:
- Readers as teachers of the faith
- Readers as enablers of mission in the everyday
- Readers as leaders in Church and society
At the service in the Cathedral on 21 July Bishop David will be leading a celebration of the ministry of all the 220 or so licensed Readers in the Diocese, and Readers will have the opportunity to renew their commitment to share in this ministry.
Some research by one of the members of the Birmingham Readers’ Association has revealed that the first four women to be admitted and licensed in Birmingham Diocese were
- Sally Bishop St Barnabas, Erdington
- Eleanor Jackson Holy Trinity, Sutton Coldfield
- Nora Sanders St Phillips,Dorridge
- Jean Weller St Anne’s West Heath
This took place in 1972, and their stories have been collected, and will be shared at the service. Jean arrived in Birmingham from Lusaka, Zambia, where she and her husband had been missionaries. Nora already had a considerable ministry preparing young people for Confirmation. Eleanor recalls how she received her theological training at the University of Birmingham, prior to the service to admit and licence her, which was separate to that for the men!
Readers in Church of England Birmingham have a wide and varied ministry which we will celebrate and affirm at the service on 21 July. With sixteen women and men from across the Diocese, with a broad range of experience in training, and a further thirteen due to start training in October, Reader ministry looks set to continue to flourish in this part of God’s Church.