Barry Barnes introduces us to an organization that provides support, fellowship and teaching for Readers
The College of Readers is a small, but growing, members’ organization founded in 2000, under the guidance of the late Bishop Michael Houghton, which aims to provide support and fellowship for Readers who come from parishes across the British Isles. It is an organization designed to complement existing arrangements for Readers at diocesan, provincial and national level, and is open to Licensed Readers, Readers with permission to officiate, Readers Emeritus or Readers in training.
Members come from a variety of backgrounds but all affirm the authority of Scripture, the grace of the sacraments and the traditional understanding of the apostolic ministry of bishops, priests and deacons.
Structure and activities
The National Committee consists of Reader members who are elected from the membership at the Annual General Meeting, together with a priest Warden of the traditional integrity. The Patron of the College is Martyn Jarrett, Bishop of Beverley.
Where numbers are sufficient diocesan or regional circles have been formed. The College aims to provide opportunities to take part in activities which include worship, prayer, study and fellowship, with teaching that complements training offered by the official institutions of the Church.
Access to spiritual direction and/or confidential discussion and advice is available from a local chaplain who is a priest of the traditionalist integrity. Where further chaplains are needed, their appointment would be made in consultation with the Warden. Committee members are based in all three Provincial areas and provide a geographical link to the College.
The College is run by its members and financed from annualsubscriptions and donations. Much of what it publishes is produced by its members. It provides an opportunity for members to participate in one or more national or regional events each year, including the Annual General Meeting.
In addition committee members are also available by telephone, email or letter correspondence to provide a friendly contact for Readers who find that they are experiencing problems or suffering from isolation, by having no contact with other Readers.
Our primary resource
The Committee recently instituted a periodic review of the College, to try and ensure it is making best use of its limited resources. Our primary resource is the members, as without their talents, time and abilities, so much of what we do would not be possible. An important resource too is the funding provided by members’ and friends’ subscriptions, without which none of it would be possible.
One of the issues of concern to Readers is that of vocation. Vocation is often referred to within the wider Church relating to clergy and religious, which is right and proper, as both are essential to the continued life and work of the Church.
What is sometimes far less emphasized, is that we are all ‘called by name’, that we all are part of the Body of Christ, the Church. Reader ministry provides not just someone who can help to fill the gaps, while clergy numbers are constantly reducing; but a group of people whowork out their vocation, in exercising the role to which they were called, as lay theologian.
We all need to discern what God seeks of us, what role is right and proper and how God seeks to make each one of us more completely ourselves in that role.
In the busy work of a parish, as we go through the routine of doing God’s work, we do not often have an opportunity to consider how we do it, and how we can serve God better. It is sometimes valuable to take time out and share in the experience of other Readers. One of the opportunities provided for members to share is in the annual pilgrimage to Walsingham in November.
The 11th annual pilgrimage to Walsingham takes place on 12–15 November. The Bishop of Richborough will be present on one of the days of the pilgrimage. More details of that event will be published a little nearer the date.
Alongside the formal programme, in which people are free to take part as much or as little as they feel appropriate, there is opportunity for Readers to spend time in an atmosphere conducive to fellowship or in reflection. Having attended the pilgrimage for a few years now, I can warmly recommend it.
Members receive a quarterly periodical, Blue Scarf, with news, events, programmes and articles of theological and practical interest. This helps to keep members in touch and gives all members the opportunity to publish examples of their own work. They are also sent one-off CoR Occasional Papers on various subjects of interest as they are published.
The web site