This weekend saw Readers from across the country coming together in Leicester to celebrate the very significant contribution they have made to the life of the church and beyond in the last 150 years since Readers were established.
Follow 2016 described as a Christian Day Festival for 21st Century Disciples was packed with top speakers, wonderful worship and amazing activities, not just for Readers but everyone.
As they celebrated 150 years since the movement was founded, Readers decided to give the day as a birthday present to the Church. It wasn't an attempt to recruit for ministry - rather a gift and hope that those present -Reader or not - would leave the day more encouraged to be a Christian and follower of Christ, whoever and wherever they are.
Speakers included Paula Gooder, freelance writer and lecturer in Biblical Studies; Mark Russell, CEO of the Church Army and Mark Greene from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.
As well as talks there were bouncy castles - for children and adults, magic shows, a scratch choir and much much more. Street Angels, Messy Church, prayer, ice-cream and a mobile monastery were all part of the mix.
Jeff Heaton, Reader from Thornhill and Whitley Lower in Leeds Diocese, as well as well as Associate Secretary for the Central Readers Council was on the organising committee for Follow 2016 and the host for the Marquee sessions at Follow 2016.
"Readers are all about having a foot in both camps" explained Jeff, "the Church and the wider world and bridging the gap."
As another Reader put it: "Readers don't just do it in robes!"
Jeff went on to explain how that week he'd been with a woman as her husband faced a hearing at Bradford Crown Court. As one of the court chaplaincy team he'd been able to be alongside her at a stressful and difficult time.
This theme was echoed by another local Reader, Ian Grange. Ian has his own celebration this year as he will have been served as Reader at Christ the King, Battyeford for 25 years this October.
Ian has recently been appointed by the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines as Assistant Warden of Readers for Huddersfield Area. As such he will work alongside Ven Anne Dawtry, Archdeacon of Halifax and Warden of Readers across the diocese, together with four other Assistant Wardens - one for each of the other Episcopal Areas.
One of his early pastoral visits was to visit a Reader from Hightown, who was one of Jo Cox’s case workers and was with her when the Batley & Spen MP was so brutally murdered in the middle of Birstall.
There are just under 10,000 Readers in the Church of England. They are lay people who have been selected, trained and licensed by the Bishop to preach, teach, lead worship and be involved in pastoral work. Most are licensed to a particular parish but some are chaplains in prisons, hospitals, hospices or schools. The work they do is fantastically varied.
Robert Paterson, Bishop of Sodor & Man, but also Chair of the Central Reader's Council reflects on the future for Readers:
"Lay ministry in the future will be much more diverse. Yes, we'll still need well-trained, articulate lay theologians, but we'll also need people equipped, authorised and accountable in evangelistic, pastoral, formational and liturgical ministry whose focus will be on the Kingdom of God."
Rt Revd Paterson is seen to the right making the most of the adult bouncy castle at Follow 2016. Is this the future face of Reader Ministry?