What is a Reader?
Readers are Licensed Lay Ministers of the Church of England. They:
- lead worship and preach
- are licensed by the Bishop to carry out their function
- are lay people - not priests or other clergy.
Readers may lead 'Services of the Word', including the traditional offices of Morning and Evening Prayer. However, as they are not ordained as priests they may not preside at the Eucharist (Communion), although they may assist with the service including preaching, conducting some parts of it and distributing the consecrated bread and wine.
Most Readers carry out extensive pastoral, evangelistic and other duties as well as leading worship and preaching. Readers are not permitted to conduct weddings, but, with additional training, may conduct funerals and, in exceptional circumstances, may baptise.
Readers are volunteers - they receive no payment for their ministry. Many also have secular careers, and this often helps in relating the Gospel and the Christian life to the lives of the members of their congregations. Many others are retired from secular employment and take the opportunity of the extra time retirement offers to expand their ministry. Readers' licences are renewed every three years (every five years after 2017), usually at a special service. There is no official retirement age from Reader ministry and many Readers continue to minister into their seventies and beyond. However, on reaching the age of seventy a Reader must surrender his or her licence. If the Reader wishes the ministry to continue (and the parish desires it), he or she may receive Permission to Officiate (PTO) from the Bishop. Receiving PTO status may be an opportunity for a Reader to reduce his or her commitment, but for many it is very much business as usual. Eventual retirement is by mutual agreement between the Reader and the parish. A retired Reader may be given the title 'Reader Emeritus' at the request of their incumbent.
The photo shows Ray Wheeler, Area Warden for Croydon, assisting at the re-licensing service in the cathedral in January 2008. The blue scarf which he is wearing, and which all Readers wear when carrying out their duties, is the badge of a Reader.
Further information about Reader Ministry can be found in the Vocations section of the website.