Monday, 1 August 2016

"1866 And All That" - A Celebration of 150 Years of Reader Ministry

On Ascension Day 1866 the bishops of the Province of Canterbury reached agreement in Convocation that laymen should be licensed in all dioceses to lead prayers and preach in the absence of clergymen.

The Church of England is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the decision in 2016 as the charter of foundation of Reader ministry in its modern form.
"The said principal Incumbent to depute, in every such parish committed to his Care, a Deacon or some honest, sober and grave Lay-man: who, as a Reader should read the Order of Service appointed: but such Reader not to intermeddle to Christen, Marry, or Minister the Holy Communion, or Preach or Prophecy: but only to read the Service of the Day, with the Litany and Homily, as should be prescribed, in the absence of the principal pastor."
Though the title "Reader" existed in the medieval church it was not until after the reformation that something resembling Reader ministry emerged in the Church of England. Early Readers brought in to fill the gaps when clergy numbers were small and a task of reading the service in the 1559 Book of Common Prayer, and not being allowed to preach. Though they had to be literate, moderately educated, and sound in Protestant doctrine, Readers were only seen as a temporary measure.
Readers never quite died out in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for the simple reason there were never enough clergy to serve every parish church. In the reign of George 2nd. there were still remote and inaccessible locations served by Lay Readers. The Bishops of Chester and Carlisle felt compelled to ordain these men as deacons, even though they may be tailors and shoemakers. The Church eventually accepting that leading worship was not incompatible with holding down a secular calling as well as doing a lot of the work of ministry in neglected localities.
By the early nineteenth century it is likely that few of these Readers remained. However in 1839 the famous Headmaster of Rugby School, Thomas Arnold preached a sermon calling for the ordination of distinctive deacons as well as the creation of an order of lay "subdeacons" below them. Arnold expressed a social concern that an elite class of priests were unable to effectively serve the lower middle and working classes. Arnold's sermon led to a "Lay address to the Archbishop of Canterbury" which was submitted in 1844 calling for the authorisation of Lay Readers or subdeacons to take the burden of ministry off the shoulders of clergy and allowing less educated men to participate in ministry.
As always in the Church of England movement on the issue was slow. Though the proposals were initially rejected by the Convocation of 1862 it became a turning point and the movement for Readers was gaining traction within the Church at large. In 1864 a petition of the Church of England Young Men's Society pleaded to the Archbishop of Canterbury that;
" instituting a lower or special Order.....there be added to the existing Clergy a large body of earnest-hearted men to carry on the work of the Church in its more secular and subordinate departments, and also peculiarly adapted to the evangelisation of the Mechanical Classes, and other sections of the community as yet but little reached by ordinary ministration."
The issue of Readers came up again in the Convocation of 1864 though splits between high churchmen and evangelicals delayed approval for a further two years. The bishops decision in 1866 regularised a practice that had existed in some dioceses since 1840, and crucially it ensured that Readers received some kind of national recognition as a ministry that existed as something more than a stop gap in the absence of enough ordained ministers. Readers now not only licensed to lead worship but also to preach. The beginning of Reader ministry in a recognisable modern form. Since 1866 Readers have become more significant in the church with every passing year. We owe a great deal of gratitude to those voices in the Victorian church who persistently advocated a greater participation of the laity in ministry and finally achieved their aim.
In the Parish of Monkwearmouth we don't quite add up to 150 years as Readers between us but Reader Ministry has been an integral part of church life since I arrived in the parish in 1979. At St. Andrew's, Geoff Lowson (later ordained), Dave Treweeke, Ian Harrison, John Lloyd have served the parish. As part of Monkwearmouth Team Ministry today there are four Readers; Max Thompson (1974), Dave Henderson (1987), John Pattinson (1987), Philip Smithson (1991, later ordained 2007), Joyce Goodfellow (2002). Malcolm Drummond who begins his Reader training this autumn.
Bishop Robert Patterson, Chair Central Readers Council writes:
Some reflected on the past, present and future and the fact that the Reader movement was born out of a need to connect the proclamation of the word with an increasing secular world. There was a need to bring the Bible back into the home and the workplace. They founded a ministry to bring the voice of God back into the conversation. What was so important in this episcopal initiative in 1866, as with the Mothers Union and Church Army later, is the fact that they were lay initiatives in mission. An emphasis on lay-ness founded on the concept of teamwork in which lay and ordained would work and pray together to bring in God's kingdom. Today we look at the past to point to the future. We cannot do anything about the past but we can help to be "prophets of a future not our own." Quoting Archbishop Oscar Romero's famous prayer-poem:
We cannot do everything. And there is a sense of liberation in realising that this enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete but it's a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master-builder and worker. We are workers, not master builders. We are ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.
Extracts from "The Reader" magazine summer 2016 © John Pattinson

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Don’t Mention The ‘M’ Word

Here's the second in our series of guest blogs from Rachael Phillips as part of the Generous Giving Project. Have a read and leave your comments below!
I feel I can speak with confidence about how much people hate talking about money because I’m in that boat too.
A few weeks ago I had a leak in the bathroom. After the plumber had finished, he showed me what he’d done and we walked downstairs.
Then came the inevitable and extremely awkward bit. Stalling for time, I asked if he wanted another cup of tea. He had his tool bag in his hands and was ready for home, but thankfully he said yes. We talked and talked. Ten minutes passed. I hoped my husband would come home soon so he could deal with the situation. He didn’t. It was up to me. Conversation had run dry and he said ‘Right’ as he stood up, which of course means ‘I’m off’. So I had to do it. We had to talk about money. It seemed vulgar and rude, but he had to be paid for his work. I didn’t want to use the ‘m’ word, so I opted for ‘So… what’ll it be?’ and I made a smiley face and raised my eyebrows which I hoped would hide my embarrassment, but it probably didn’t. He told me the amount, and I paid him, and it was all over. Phew.

We don’t have a problem with paying for things in Britain. But we do have a problem with talking about it.
When I was in the Army and working in Afghanistan, I learned that when people introduced themselves, one of the first questions a stranger will be asked after ‘what do you do?’ is ‘what do you earn?’
In Afghanistan it is a perfectly legitimate question, and no-one feels shy about it. It’s like asking someone their height. Here in Britain we don’t discuss our income with our friends and often not even with our family.
We can feel awkward about money in church too. I’ve felt really embarrassed in churches before. Once I visited a church for the first time and the collection plate was at the back, and I missed it altogether. I’d given nothing! Another time I was at Salisbury Cathedral and had given all the money I was carrying during the offertory. After the service, when I was at the front of the queue to get coffee, I realised that I couldn’t contribute, so I left the queue empty handed because I couldn’t bear not contributing (or having to explain myself). These examples are silly but true. I’ve since been told that the church is a place of grace and love and no-one would have judged me at all. This is true. The problem didn’t lie with other people. It was all my own embarrassment about money.
Why is it embarrassing? Some people don’t like talking about money because they don’t have much of it. Other people don’t like talking about money because they have too much of it. Whatever the reason, there’s something within us that makes the topic of money something we want to avoid at all costs.
The thing is, if we are going to respond to God’s love by giving, which is what we are called to do, then we have to face it. We have to talk about money. Why? Well contributing money (however much) to our church funds helps our parish church to continue its work. We give money to our church because God loves us and we want to share that message of love with our neighbour. It seems simple enough, but the act of handing over money or talking about handing over money or even thinking about having to talk about handing over money…. Makes us pretty uncomfortable.
Jesus spoke about money 33 times in the gospels. Maybe we could learn something from that. If we’re going to make a change, if we’re going to see our churches and communities transformed by God’s love and generosity then we have to say it: MONEY MONEY MONEY.
Imagine if we could embrace conversations about money. I wonder how it would make our vicars feel when preaching about money if they knew we weren't squirming in our seats. I'd love to see the look on your vicar's face if, next time you saw them, you told them you're ready to talk about money
Next time you walk into church, look around and feel blessed that it exists for you and your community because of the money (donations big or small) you and generations before you have given. Next time you are praying, pray for the people in your Parish, that they may feel peace when talking about money, and to those whose lives are a struggle because they feel they don’t have enough, or they are embarrassed about having too much.

God thank you for loving me and for all the gifts you give me. You give freely, without condition, and without embarrassment. You do not hold back.
Please teach me to follow your ways.
Forgive my embarrassment God; please don’t let it get in the way of my giving. I am like a child, O Lord, and I need direction and strength. I pray you will fill my heart with your Holy Spirit, and enable me to talk about money with grace. Amen
Rachael Phillips is Generous Giving Project Officer for the Diocese of Durham

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Generous Disciples

Over the next few months we're delighted to say we'll be posting a series of guest blogs from Rachael Phillips as part of the Generous Giving Project. Have a read and leave your comments below!
Welcome to the first in a series of articles focusing on an important aspect of being Disciples of Christ; giving generously. But before we get on to that, we need to know what Discipleship is. You may not have known you were a 'disciple' until now. The word means ‘learner’ and we use it to describe but those who want to grow in Christ and in doing so model and teach other Christians about lots of things including the Bible, prayer, doctrine (what Christians believe), relationships, Christian living, service, and worship. You might think that you’re not cut out for the job and your knowledge of the Christian faith is shaky. Don’t worry. God called you as you are and uses your skills, even ones you didn’t know you had. Every time you pray or you tell a friend that you’re going to church or you explain to a workmate what Lent is all about, you’re being a Disciple. Discipleship is about how we live a distinctly Christian way. It’s about action. God calls us to respond, and when we do, we are being disciples.

Following the teachings of Jesus, and trying as best we can to live like He did, makes us stand out from the crowd for good reasons, in all sorts of ways. When we live as Disciples, our lives are so much richer because we know we are loved deeply and unconditionally, no matter how many mistakes we make along the way. We know we are never alone; we face the world safe in the knowledge that God is with us now and always will be. As Disciples, when we are troubled or scared we can pray and feel a sense of peace from the connection with get with our Father. As Disciples, when we worship together we join in celebrating and praising the wonder of our Creator.
As Disciples, we are incredibly blessed because we have a very generous God whose generosity knows no bounds. We love God because He first loved us, and we give because God first gave to us immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20). Our whole lives are a response to a loving, generous God, who gives freely and without measure to the whole world. When we immerse ourselves in the character of God, we come to realise that all that we are, and all that we have, comes from God’s generosity. This concept can be quite surprising and challenging for some of us. We will look at this in more detail in the series.
The well-known Bible verse from John’s Gospel beautifully and simply sums this up: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,” (John 3:16)
John shows us that the Biblical concepts of “love” and “gift” are inseparable. In fact it is impossible to understand one without the other. Therefore, because God’s love is gifted love, our love must be expressed through giving back as well.
God gave Jesus to the world that through him we might have eternal life and to have eternal life is to know God in a way that without Jesus it would not be possible. So, as we think about who God is and about His character, the call to be like our heavenly Father challenges us to emulate his generosity. Such love knows no boundaries and will challenge us as much as it will challenge and bless those around us.
Over this series of articles about Generous Giving we will learn about this key part of our faith and how we respond to God’s call. We will look at ways we can change our lives to reflect God’s love, and in doing so, change the lives of others. It doesn’t matter how long we have been Christians or where we are in our relationship with God. It doesn’t matter if we already knew we were Disciples or if we learned that for the first time today. Being nearer God and trying to understand Him is something we all ultimately seek. Giving Generously is a central part of that and when we feel ready to take this step and rethink how we do this, we are changed. It is a beautiful thing. We will see our own lives transformed, our parishes and communities transformed and this special corner of God’s Kingdom in the North East of England transformed.
Let’s pray about this transformation and the exciting opportunities that are just around the corner.
God you know me and all my ways. You knew me before I was born and you gave me life. You are my guide, my shield, my strength. You are my best friend and confidant. You hear my prayers and you comfort me when I am alone. I am not worthy but you give me so much anyway. I thank you with all my heart for your generosity. Please help me, Lord, to consider how I can give more generously. Transform me God. Search my heart and guide me to be more like you. Fill me with joy and peace and love when I give, and remind me that I give because first you gave. 
Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.
Rachael Phillips is Generous Giving Project Officer for the Diocese of Durham

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Towering Heavenwards

To the returning mariner it was the first sight of home. To the many, who for over a century have entered through its doors, it was to be filled with a sense of awe and wonder at the beauty meeting the human eye. Sight drawn towards the chancel, the high altar, the tapestry, and the magnificent mural adorning the east end below the tower. A mural depicting the creation, not least the human hands, imagination and creativity offered to God through this work of art , completed in the late 1920’s. The original drawing of Prior’s design which can still be seen in the vestry.
Surrounding the mural are quotations from Genesis and a depiction of heaven and earth as a "garden of delight." Prior's design, executed by MacDonald Gill rendered a vision of an earthly paradise, the only decoration in stark contrast to the building itself.
An east end tower specifically designed to point towards the sea being one of many unusual sights to greet the visitor and regular congregation alike. A previous vicar Dennis Marsh  described the tower as "a beacon for our sailor brothers", and giving "a parting message of peace and courage, for did not Jesus come walking to the toilers on the sea?" In placing the tower over the chancel the architect seemed to break down barriers between altar and nave, clergy and congregation, and gave that intrepid band of bell ringers an elevated dignity high above the "creation mural" ringing out the call to worship.
    Of course all of us are used to the power of a raging east wind and accompanying rains. Alas over time the effects of weather and salt air have now left the tower in an unstable state. Water leaking through the roof, unstable turrets requiring the flagpole to be taken down, water ingress destroying part of the mural, and a threat to the bell chamber and that intrepid band of campanologists.
I am now pleased to announce that the church has secured a Heritage Lottery grant to renovate the tower at a cost of £256,000. The work is planned to commence in March 17 and take several months with the tower surrounded by scaffolding and the bells silent for a while.
Yet perhaps as we gaze on the scaffolding when the work commences, our hearts and minds may be drawn to the God who supports us, renews us, and keeps us safe through his towering presence of love for each one of us. A renewal that will sustain the church for years to come. A God who will sustain our faith in him forever.
John Pattinson

Friday, 1 April 2016

Exclusive News!

There was great excitement amongst historians and theologians as it was revealed that, during the exploratory digging at St. Peter's a couple of years ago, a small section of parchment was discovered. After months of work, carbon dating and careful translation point to it being part of the long searched-for ‘Q’ source.
Professor Hugh Ebrilll-Ffwl, Head of Theological Studies at Cardiff University, explained,
“Until now Q was hypothetical – it’s a written collection of Jesus' sayings that appear in Matthew and Luke but not in the Gospel of Mark, which was written before them. To announce its discovery today is most fitting.”
 Q is thought to be based on the Oral Tradition of the Early Church – but on careful reading, it appears this document has influenced more than just the Gospels…


That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now as I was going to St. Ives I met a man with seven wives. Every wife had seven sacks, every sack had seven cats, every cat had seven kits. Kits, cats, sacks, wives, how many were going to St Ives and, at the resurrection, whose husband will he be of the seven, since all of them were married to him?”

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. And only one was going to St. Ives.”

When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” The number of people listening had grown and had attracted the attention of a centurion. Jesus turned to the crowds and said, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made; no-one you can save that can’t be saved; nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time – it’s easy. All you need is love.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. For what man is there among you who, if a boy asks ‘Please sir, I want some more,’ would aim a blow at his head with a ladle? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!



The document will go on display in St. Peter’s from 29th February next year. 

To discover more visit

Dane Aprilsnar

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

St Andrew's marks Palm Sunday in style

After a gap of many years it was good to have the presence of not one but two donkeys to head our procession of witness for Palm Sunday this year. I was informed the two donkeys were "soul mates," who never liked to be separated from one another. Not even a carrot could entice them to enter the church at the end of the service to start the procession!

So carrying our palm crosses the congregation proceeded through the lych-gate to Sidecliff Road and into the park to the consternation of passers-by and to  the delight of children whom we encountered en-route.

At  Bede's cross on the seafront a short act of worship was led by the Rector before returning to Church for refreshments.

Our grateful thanks to Anne Nicholson for providing the donkeys and her enthusiasm in embracing this mark of Christian witness. Also the police community support officer keeping us safe on the road. Not least her thanks for being able to take home a palm cross.

"The multitude began to praise God joyfully saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord."  Luke 19. 37

                                                                                                John Pattinson

Monday, 7 March 2016

St Peter's Church Makes History Again

St. Peter's Church have joined with local schools and councils to create a little bit of history, by creating a new version of one of history's most influential books, produced in Sunderland thirteen centuries ago - The Codex Amiatinus.

Three Codex Latin Bibles were transcribed and illuminated at
Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery and left St Peter's Church for Rome in AD 716 as a gift from Abbot Ceolfrith to Pope Gregory II.

The only remaining intact copy is currently housed in the Laurentian Library in Florence.

As part of the Codex 1300 commemoration of that literary pilgrimage to Rome, a leather bound copy of the 'Children's Codex' will leave St Peter's Church in June to be presented to Pope Francis in the Vatican.

The Children's Codex will first visit Westminster Abbey to be signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, before continuing its journey to Rome.

Here it will be presented to Pope Francis, and put on permanent display in the Vatican as a commemoration of the original Codex sent from Wearmouth-Jarrow 1300 years ago.

The Codex 1300 anniversary commemorative project is being coordinated by SPEAK (St Peter's Educational Activities for Kids) in conjunction with Sunderland City Council, the Parish of Jarrow and South Tyneside Council.

The presentation of the bound volume of biblical texts and drawings, will be the culmination of a commemorative programme which includes a civic service at St Peter's Church on Saturday 4 June at 11.30am.

Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, Councillor John Kelly said: "Certain religious historians would argue that the Codex Amiatinus is equally if not more significant the Lindisfarne Gospels, so it was important for us all to work together to create and fund this commemorative project.

"Retracing the steps of the pilgrimage led by Ceolfrith who actually died on the journey, to deliver a 'Children's Codex' created by the young people of Sunderland and Jarrow to Pope Francis is the best commemoration I can think of.

"I'd like to thank all our partners for making this possible, and our
young for sharing their creative skills with us to help produce a replica Codex, which will reside in the Vatican for future generations of Christian pilgrims to Rome to enjoy."

All 118 schools in Sunderland and 20 schools in Jarrow have been invited to be involved in this prestigious and historical event. Each school has been given a template to follow reflecting the size and design of pages, with a biblical reference for pupils to base their writing and designs on.

Deputy Leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for Culture and Leisure, Cllr Alan Kerr, added: "This is a momentous project for our young people to be involved in. The creative talents of our young people, and the historic origins of the Codex, will be celebrated by people from across the globe when they visit the Vatican.

"I am thrilled that these new chapters will also go on permanent display in our own communities to allow people from outside and across the Borough  to be part of this wonderful project which reminds us all of the historic and religious significance of our area."

Once completed the chapters will be collated to create a new Children's Codex as a literary gift to the world from the young people of Sunderland and Jarrow.

Another three bound copies of the Children's Codex will remain at home to  be on permanent display at St. Peter's Church Monkwearmouth and St. Paul's Church Jarrow, with a third to be made available on loan for schools, libraries and community venues in Sunderland, Jarrow and South Tyneside.

A facsimile copy of the original Codex Amiatinus is currently on display at St Peter's Church on temporary loan from Sunderland City Council Library Services.

One of the schools involved in the Codex 1300 project is Dame Dorothy Primary School in Monkwearmouth, which can be seen from St Peter's Church.

Head teacher at the school in Dock Street, Mr Ian Williamson, said: “It is  remarkable to think that 1300 years after the original Codex Amiatinus was  inscribed and illuminated at the Wearmouth-Jarrow Monastery, the creative talent of our community can again produce such fantastic work.

"Our children and all the other schools in Sunderland and Jarrow involved in this project have risen to the challenge, and provided the quality of text and pictures the Monks themselves would have been proud of."