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5 Jul 2019

Reader Ministry: Personal Testimonies

Over the coming months, we will feature some experiences of Reader Ministry across the Diocese.  We start with a personal Testimony contributed by Patrick Lambert, a licensed Reader at St Paul's,Tervuren.

I had known about the possibility of becoming a Lay Reader in the Anglican church for a long time.  It had always been in the back of my mind that one day I might apply.  Two things happened which brought it into sharp focus.  First of all, I retired from a busy, all-consuming job and second, our then chaplain, Simon Tyndall, suggested that I might consider it.  After further discussion with Simon, and prayerful consideration, I decided to give it a go.  It seemed right for me at this stage of my life and at this point in my faith journey.

I had to go through a selection procedure which included a recommendation from my chaplain. application forms, a couple of character references, safeguarding checks, and an interview.  I was interviewed by a charming and very friendly clergyman, Sam Van Leer, from the Anglican church in Utrecht.  Eventually, I received the green light to start my training from Bishop David. 

Reader training in the Diocese in Europe has two strands.  On the academic side, you follow a distance learning course leading to a Certificate in Christian Studies from St John’s Theological College, Nottingham.  I followed the former system of 6 modules which required a good deal of course work, reading the recommended books, reflecting on and answering questions, and doing the assignments (essays) for each of the modules.  I think I did 17 assignments in total.

At this point, I should mention my tutor, Canon Elaine Labourel, the Diocesan Director of Reader Ministry, based in Paris.  She was the key contact person for my academic training, marking my assignments, following my course work and generally keeping an eye on my progress.  She was always very supportive and, above all, encouraging.  We have yet to meet face to face but I look forward to an opportunity to do so and thank her personally.  

The other aspect of my training was the practical side under the supervision of my chaplain, Simon.  He encouraged me to gradually take on more responsibility in leading services and preaching.  The latter especially was a challenge for me.  I began by preaching to our small 9am congregation before being ‘let loose’ on our main 10.30am service.  Simon, and assistant chaplain, Nathan Gregory, encouraged me and provided helpful feedback.

Finally, after some two and a half years, I completed my academic studies and was ready to be licensed!  The service was led by Bishop Robert at St Paul’s, Tervuren on 16th December 2018.  Not only was I licensed but a number of our congregation were confirmed on that day and, in addition, we celebrated the 30-year anniversary of St Paul’s, Tervuren.  It was a day to remember!

I have been a Reader now for 6 months.  I have a work agreement, drawn up with Simon.  I lead services and preach on a regular basis.  As a Lay Reader, I have also recently joined our Church Council.  Simon has recently left us to enjoy a well-earned retirement and I find myself facing a more demanding role during the ‘inter-regnum’.  I must do more leading and preaching in support of Nathan, as acting chaplain, for the next few months.  I will also help with some pastoral visits which I look forward to as a means of helping others but also to broaden my experience.

I’m only at the beginning of my new role of Lay Reader but already I find a great deal of fulfilment.  The training and the ministry itself have helped strengthen my faith.  As well as helping me on my own Christian journey, I am hoping that my ministry will support and encourage others along the way. Let’s see what God has in store for me and those I serve…

You can access more information on Reader Ministry at these Diocesan and Church of England links:

https://europe.anglican.org/vocations/readers

Anglican Readers' web site at www.readers.cofe.anglican.org