The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


“When did you last have a holiday?” my GP asked me. I had been feeling tired and worn out for several weeks and fatigue was the doctor’s diagnosis. “Well, as it happens, I’m on a sort of holiday right now,” I replied. I explained how I am training to be a Reader in the Anglican Church and how I had left my home parish of Denmead to spend a few months on placement at St George’s Church in Waterlooville. “That explains your choice of waiting room reading then,” she said, looking down at the copy of Practical Theology in Action, by Ballard and Pritchard, resting in my lap.

Well, a change is as good as a rest, they say, and that is exactly what I am experiencing now, at St George’s. I first visited the church for eucharist on Christmas Day and began regular worship on 8 January. Since then I have met a huge number of wonderful, friendly and helpful people, I have encountered many different sights, sounds and smells to stimulate me and I feel greatly refreshed and inspired.

For the benefit of those readers not familiar with Reader Ministry, I should explain that the Office of Reader is one of the oldest ministries in the Church, but it in its present form in the Church of England was established in 1866. Since then, the growth in Reader Ministry has been one of the great success stories in the Church of England and there are now over 10,000 Readers nationally, some in every diocese. It is the only lay ministry in the Church of England which is voluntary, nationally accredited, episcopally licensed and governed by Canon.

Readers are lay men and women, from a wide range of different backgrounds, who recognize a call to serve God and his world through the Church of England. Readers work in a variety of roles and situations across the Church, being authorized to preach and teach, to lead or assist in leading worship, and to assist in the pastoral work of the Church in the parish or chaplaincy where they are licensed. Readers are people living out their faith in their different walks of life, being alert to what God is doing and interpreting it for the benefit of others.

I don’t know if you are like me but I often feel nervous about moving out of my comfort zone.  I was perfectly happy to hide behind the piano or behind the lectern during worship and think that I had done my bit. I’m more naturally a listener and a thinker rather than a leader and a speaker. It was only when a last-minute crisis caused the absence of the worship leader at a service in Denmead and led to me being pushed out to the front by the other helpers, that I found that I could in fact lead worship myself and, to my surprise, I found the experience inspiring. During the next three years, whilst I continued to lead all-age worship at Denmead, several people dropped some heavy hints about how I might explore some form of ministry and I then plucked up the courage to apply for selection as a trainee Reader, albeit slightly nervous about how the study time might impact upon my wife and two sons.

The difference between Reader ministry and that of other lay workers in the church is the nationally recognized theological training. The course on which I embarked in July 2009, when I attended my first training day at Old Alresford Place, was a part time foundation degree in Christian Theology and Ministry.

During the last two and a half years I have studied modules in scripture, doctrine, Church history, liturgy, preaching, pastoral care and Christian ethics; all on top of a full-time day job and bringing up two teenage boys! After Easter, I shall be leading a study group in my home parish and in the autumn the course will conclude with the last of five residential weekends to study Church mission in contemporary society, before I am licensed by the Bishop in the cathedral on 29 September this year.

An important element of a Reader’s training is gaining experience in leading worship and preaching in a parish or chaplaincy different to their own. So this term’s module sees me on placement at St George’s, until Easter, reading scripture, leading intercessions, preaching sermons and assisting with leading worship and I’m grateful to Father Mike and to the PCC for their support and particularly grateful for the outstandingly warm welcome you have all given me. It is a privilege to be learning about your faith and your church with you.

Although I shall be licensed to minister in Denmead, you won’t have seen the last of me when we part on Easter Day. I fully intend to visit St George’s from time to time, as other commitments permit, and am keen to keep in touch; I have made so many new friends here, it really has been just like a holiday and a great tonic.

Peter Mitchell

Easter Edition 2012

from Peter Mitchell...