Readers are licensed by the Diocesan Bishop as lay ministers of the Church of England under the supervision of their incumbent. Depending on their particular gifts and the local need, they exercise their ministry in a variety of ways:
- by exercising a preaching and teaching ministry
- potentially by becoming involved in conducting worship and the preparation of liturgy
- collaborating with clergy in reaching out to the local community in mission.
Readers are not ordained, and they are volunteers. Many also have secular careers, and this helps them relate the Gospel to the lives of their congregations. Others are retired from secular employment, and take the opportunity of the time this affords to expand their ministry.
The ministry of Readers in the Diocese is overseen by the Warden of Readers who chairs the Southwark Diocese Association of Readers Board. The process for selection to Reader ministry is overseen by the Vocations Department.
Training for Reader ministry is undertaken in partnership with St Augustine’s College of Theology. An outline of this training can be found on the St Augustine’s website.
Two years of training are provided by St Augustine’s, after which Readers are licensed. At that stage there are two further years of less intensive development for Readers run by the Diocese and mainly focused on the parish.
The Ministry Matters programme contains courses and events that have been identified as particularly relevant to lay ministers in this role. The department is also able to provide Readers with support to access coaching and discuss further study.