This year marks the 150th anniversary of the introduction of ‘Reader’ (ie Lay Preacher) Ministry in the Church of England. We asked our own Reader, John Exelby, for some reflections.
Not long ago I was driving back from a Gloucester Rugby away game with a friend from one of our villages. “What I want to know,” he said as soon as we got in the car “is whether Christians, Jews and Muslims have the same God. If not, why not – and if it is the same God why are we always fighting each other in the name of religion?” I did my best to answer on the way home, did some late-night research and knocked out a couple of sides of A4 which I delivered to him. The following Saturday to the amazement of those around us on the terraces at Kingsholm a group of us were discussing alternative faiths rather than the failings of the referee – although we got to that later.
As what I might call an ordinary person who publicly advertises his faith (without, I hope, any bible-thumping), I’m not seen as an authority-figure in the way that a vicar often is. People talk to me and ask questions all the time in a way they never did before I became a Reader. They also ask me to help with special services like baptisms, weddings and funerals because they have known me for years and feel that I am a friend who can give them comfort when they need it. They know my weaknesses as well as my strengths, and accept them knowing that I, though an incomer of only twenty-two years’ standing, have our villages at heart just as they do. And, of course, I am an extra pair of hands to make sure that with my fellow Readers and lay colleagues who take services, every church in CHEQS can have a service every Sunday – and more often if that’s what’s wanted.
Being a Reader is for me a wonderful privilege and a very special way of serving our communities.
Thank you, John, for your ministry amongst us in the CHEQS churches – and thanks also to our other Reader, Hanmer Webb-Peploe, for his hard work over the years!
Taken from the CHEQS magazine – visit the website here