Margaret Williams, Lay Reader at St Peter’s, Dalry writes about the recent Lay Readers’ Conference.
Around thirty lay readers assembled in Perth on Friday 28th October for the Lay Readers’ Conference. Lay Readers had travelled there from Wick in the north, Castle Douglas in the south-west and many places in between. This was the first conference I had attended and the first one which had taken place for several years due to the pandemic. It was originally planned for 2020 in a conference hotel but due to the changed circumstances was moved to this year and to St Ninian’s Episcopal Cathedral in Perth. We could not have been made more welcome; we had the use of the Chapter House and the main body of the cathedral for talks, workshops and food. The Provost, the Very Rev Hunter Farquharson, even cooked our main meal for Friday evening. Many thanks must go to the cathedral staff and congregation for their hospitality.
Our guest speaker was the Rt Rev Martyn Snow, Bishop of Leicester (pictured) who is the Church of England’s Lead Bishop for Lay Ministry. He gave a series of three talks on ‘Lay Readers – a Prophetic Voice?’. Although many of his examples were inevitably from the Church of England, he had communicated several times with the organisers to gain an idea of the differences with the situation in Scotland. He spoke about the importance of lay ministry within the church, not only in teaching and preaching but in taking our faith and experience into the wider world. The talks led to small group discussions, which were a worthwhile sharing of ideas and experiences, even if not always keeping to the subject specified!
As well as Bishop Martyn’s talks, there were two workshop sessions on Saturday. We were asked to choose from three options – ‘How we can make our worshipping communities accessible to and for people with additional support needs’, ‘Praying with the Psalms’ and ‘Funeral Ministry’.
Equally important was the social aspect of the weekend. At breaks and mealtimes (including the Saturday meal out together in the Royal George Hotel) old friendships were renewed, new friendships were made and faces only familiar from Zoom meetings were at last seen in 3D. Again experiences in Lay Reader Ministry, both good and not so good, could be shared with others.
In between the educational aspects of the conference, we met together for worship. We experienced various styles of worship led by members of our group. The weekend finished with us all joining the cathedral congregation for the celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday morning. Patsy Thomson, Warden of Lay Readers for the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness preached at this service. She gave an inspiring call for us all to act as prophetic voices and cry out locally, nationally and globally in the present times of social injustice.
I left for home tired but with some new ideas and insights for ministry. I thank all the team of organisers for a very worthwhile and enjoyable weekend.
With thanks to Margaret Williams (text) and Lis and Rob Burke (photos).