More than 370 Readers from across the Diocese of Leeds gathered this week for an historic service at Bradford Cathedral. For the first time since the diocese was formed, Readers from every corner of the diocese came together to be licensed and make their declarations of commitment to their ministry of teaching and preaching.
During the service, Bishop Nick Baines also commissioned the diocese’s first Diocesan Warden of Readers, Ven Dr Anne Dawtry (pictured left, centre) and assistant wardens for each Episcopal Area (l t r): Canon Ann Nicholl (Leeds), Mrs Julie Shield (Ripon), Mr Simon Dennis (Bradford), and Mrs Freda Jackson (Wakefield). (Mr Ian Grange (Huddersfield) was unable to be present.)
The service was also a celebration of 150 years of Reader ministry in the Church of England, a move which was intended to increase the effectiveness of the parochial system by having a dedicated group of lay people who would do pioneering work on the boundaries between the church and the wider community it serves.
Today there are more than 10,000 active Readers in the Church of England, most licensed to preach and teach in parishes but others as chaplains to prisons, hospices and schools – two readers, Karen Atkinson from Kirkheaton , an assistant head teacher, and David Greenwood-Haigh (pictured left), a chaplain at Wakefield Prison, spoke about their ministry.
There was also thanks for those who had led reader ministry in the former three historic dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield.
In his Address, the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines said, “This evening, as we celebrate 150 years of reader ministry - a very distinctive ministry, as we commission the Warden of Readers and the Area Wardens, as we make the declarations and share the Oaths, this isn’t just a hobby, it’s not something that we do that somehow has taken us over and our identity. Our priority has to be our discipleship, our identity in Christ from which our ministry will flow.”
He added, “What I want to encourage you with this evening is to take this ministry seriously; to know that you have been called by God and that he expects you to put fire in the bellies of the people who worship with you, to whom you preach and among whom you teach.”