50th anniversary of women being admitted to Reader ministry
4 November 2019 by Catherine Grylls

50th anniversary of women being admitted to Reader ministry

A service to celebrate the 50th anniversary of women being admitted to Reader ministry was held in Birmingham Cathedral on the evening of 21st July this year. Bishop David officiated and Canon Dr Paula Gooder was the preacher.

Bishop David had sent an invitation to all of the Diocese’s Readers, their family and friends – both church and personal. The invitation brought a good attendance of both Readers,plus a number of incumbents, friends and supporters.

Planning for the service had started nearly a year before.It not only covered the obvious items of liturgy and structure for the service, but also the idea to research the background of those first women pioneers of Reader ministry in our Diocese.

Am interesting part of the service's preparation was to research the background of those first womenpioneers of Reader ministry. The names of the first four women were found from the Diocesan Registry.We made contact with family, friends and their first parishes to discover some of the background of their ministries.We made investigations in the Birmingham Library Archives, where historic copies of Parish magazines are held. Best of all we were able to meet one of them.Details of the life and ministries of these four pioneering women was included within the Order of Service.

The liturgy had as its starting point an evening service structure, with versicles and responses, readings, hymns, a sermon and an anthem. In addition to having a Reader for our preacher, the music for the service came from Readers. Roger Jones bought along singers from the Christian Music Ministries Choir.Stuart Jeffs played the organ.

We wanted to use this gathering for renewing our commitment to Reader ministry. This was done not only in words, as we responded to the Bishop’s question asking us to do this – just as we would have done at our own licencing service.Our commitment to lay ministry was also symbolically expressed in the presentation at the altar of 

  • a dove -symbol of peace and unity
  • a Bible - our knowledge of our faith
  • a small sculpture of people joining hands in a circle – team working
  • a heart-shape – the Good News of our faith

At the end of the service the renewal of commitment was symbolised, as we went “out in the World", in the Cathedral Square.