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Monday, 2 December 2019

Lay ministers (Readers) gather for in depth theological exploration of the Anglican heritage

The Diocese in Europe has been described as "the Anglican Communion in miniature". Not a bad description, given that 40 of the 165 countries of the Anglican world are in this diocese! Not a bad description since in most of our congregations there are over a dozen nationalities at worship. Not a bad description given that our present licensed clergy come from about 20 different countries around the world. It often surprises folk who come to know our diocese that migrants from the UK are no longer the majority in so many of our congregations. Our diaspora communities are made up of migrants from all around the world!

Canon Paul Wignall, Director of Reader Ministry
If we are "the Anglican Communion in miniature" it follows that our Licensed Lay Ministers (Readers), as preachers and teachers of the faith, need to be very familiar with the essentials of Anglican ecclesiology, the nature of the Anglican Communion and the fruits and challenges of Anglican ecumenical dialogue with other Christian traditions. Those who are in training for Reader Ministry in this diocese are required therefore to attend at some point in their formation (or as soon after admission to this ministry as possible) a weekend in-depth seminar on "The Anglican Tradition". Thus our trained lay theologians in this diocese are well equipped to understand our international Communion, its history and contemporary challenges, our ecumenical vision and commitments, as well as our own particular C of E structure, governance and legal/canonical tradition. (Canon law is after all simply "applied ecclesiology").

Registrar Aiden Hargreaves-Smith illustrates the governance of the Church of England
This past weekend 19 Lay Ministers or Lay Ministers in training attended this seminar. It was led by the new Director of Reader Ministry, the Revd Canon Paul Wignall. Keynote speakers were our Diocesan Registrar, Aiden Hargreaves-Smith, Dr Alan Wakely, former Secretary of the Central Readers' Council, my Chaplain Deacon Frances Hiller, and myself.

Aiden engaged the Readers in a lively, participatory presentation on the governance and canons of the Church of England. Fr Paul introduced us to three contemporary Anglican theologians from our global Communion, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Bishop Michael Curry and Dr Kwok Pui Lan. Dr Wakely led an fascinating historical account tracing the ministry of Reader back to the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. Deacon Frances presented on music in the Anglican tradition, from Choral Evensong, through hymnody and modern worship songs, emphasising how most Anglicans in the pews learn much of their theology from the hymns and worship songs they sing. My lectures were on the principles of Anglican ecclesiology, the development of the Anglican Communion, and what Anglicans have contributed to and learned from our ecumenical dialogues.

Deacon Frances on Anglican music
Trainee Lay Minister Eric Sibomana from Holy Trinity Brussels commented on the weekend, "I have discovered so much about the Anglican tradition....and I have been a cradle Anglican! Throughout this seminar, j'ai été à la fois surpris et enrichi" (I have been both surprised and enriched).

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