Dick Clague retired recently after 40 years as a Reader in the Church of England. Here, he looks back over some of the many aspects of that work.
“In April 1980 when I started training as a Reader many of the books we were supposed to study were out of print and the syllabus was in need of urgent revision. All our essays were hand-written. As a trainee you were not expected to do anything practical or up front until licensed after which it was straight in at the deep end!
Much of my initial ministry was spent leading services away from my own parish. This was when I first came into contact with St Mary's and St Peter's and was a regular preacher in both churches at the time Derek Smith was vicar (often at short notice). More recently I also helped out here occasionally in Chris Humphries' time.
Apart from Parish ministry I also served a spell as Candidates' Secretary for Readers in training in the Diocese. Ecumenically I was involved in the local committee for Mission England – when Billy Graham was at Anfield. This involved recruiting and training local Christians for follow up with those from the area who responded at Anfield. At a later stage I was recalled to the Readers Executive where I was involved with John Stopford in setting up a ministry review system for Readers in the diocese.
When I took early retirement from ICI, I joined the staff of Blackburn Diocese as Resources Officer, working with parishes to help them recognise the gifts God had given them and help them make full use of them in his service. As a result of this job, I became a member of the Church of England Clergy Pension Fund (without being ordained) and was also part of a team inducting new clergy to the Diocese!
During my 5 years in Blackburn Diocese the Bishop of Sodor and Man discovered we had a holiday home in his diocese and, without even consulting the local parish or vicar licensed me as a Reader there. We had four churches and 7 services every Sunday – but only one PCC – so I was often preaching twice a Sunday and had a regular slot on the “Thought for the Day” rota on local radio. I was licensed or held PTO there for 20 years and for part of that time I was in the unusual (but not illegal) position of holding separate licenses in 3 dioceses at the same time.
After 5 years full time service across a range of churchmanship, I found it difficult returning to Reader ministry in a parish where things had polarised behind a new incumbent, so I stood down from the ministry team. However, I was exploring moving to another parish when the incumbent there announced his retirement and I was quickly asked to help during the vacancy, confident that any new Rector wouldn't want a dinosaur Reader for long – but I was wrong and ended up staying for several years.
One of the delights of St Mary's for me is the way in which worship is led and another is the quality of music. Arriving just as Covid struck was not the best of timing and has inevitably restricted the range of activities to which I can contribute here. Perversely not being able to function as a Reader in the parish makes it easier to lay-down the role – and continue to try and contribute as before.
It has been a privilege to serve as a Reader for 40 years although much of my ministry has clearly fallen outside today's expectations of that role. For me job remits are a starting point not a restriction – surely the challenge for us all is to use the gifts God has given us as effectively as possible in his service and in the time he has given us.”