A meeting of Lay Ministers

Milton House Hotel

Milton House Hotel

gathered

MORE than 120 Licensed Lay Ministers flocked to the idyllic Milton Hill House in South Oxfordshire for their annual conference this year.

The event gave LLMs the chance to relax at the countryside hotel while meeting up, comparing notes and enjoying speakers and workshops aimed at helping them in their ministry.  Susan Small, from Worminghall, said: “It’s been very helpful. It just gives you a chance that you don’t have when you are working in the parishes to talk to others and to reflect and learn. It’s about working together really. It’s about how we as a Church, as a community of Christ’s followers can work together to meet the needs of our congregations.”

Sara Bedwell, a family law solicitor, will be licensed as an LLM on 1st November. She has opted for lay ministry because she says she enjoys being part of the laity and acting as a bridge between the Church and the world. She went along to the conference. She says: “My work means I have complementary pastoral skills that are needed in both places. People’s family difficulties are part of my day-to-day work,” says Sara, who will be an LLM at St Andrew’s, Linton Road, Oxford.

Bill Birmingham first became a Lay Reader, as they are known in other dioceses, in 1980. Bill was involved in a church in Beijing for just over five years and had links with the Chinese Three Self Church. “I still have links with the Chinese Church,” says Bill, who is involved with a three day event that takes place in August, for the over 60s, at his church. “Clearly there is a need to do things for young people and families, but we feel the need to do things for older people so we have three days of activities for people who can’t go away. We have painting, embroidery, jigsaws, a meal and a trip to Stoke Poges gardens. Last year we went to Eton College. We try and bring in older people who have no connection with the Church.”

Bill was enjoying the conference. “It’s been very good. The sessions have been good for unveiling new thoughts and ideas looking at the prologue to St John’s Gospel.”
Jeremy Hopkinson, from the Mursley Deanery, said the event had been ‘inspiring’. He said: “It was very thought provoking. I came to the conclusion that I needed to have a word with the Bishop before I left, so I have spoken to him, and to Archdeacon Karen. It is always good to listen to advice and it was really encouraging.”

Margaret Fisher, from the Hermitage Team, said: “I do a lot of mission with children and toddlers and it is nice to step away from that to reflect. The talk on St John’s Gospel was excellent.”
Edna Strange, from St Lawrence, Warborough, said: “I have been to a brilliant session on children’s spirituality. There were parts of it that were really really helpful because I’m going to do assemblies and that is where spirituality comes out in schools.”

Wendy Willoughby Paul said she had most enjoyed Duncan Strappy talking abut preaching from the right brain and the left brain. She said: “I thought it was excellent.”
Robin Rowles will have been an LLM for 18 years on November and was enjoying the surroundings at Milton Hill House. He said: “Personally I have found the worship revitalising and I found Bishop John’s keynote speech brought a unique, revitalising view.”

Kevin Lovell is an LLM and one of the Area Advisers for LLM Ministry, who provide pastoral support for lay ministers. “If they have questions or difficulties they can ring us to ask for advice.” Kevin’s role also involves Ministerial Development Reviews for LLMs, which take place every two years.

“We also help people through the vocations process. If a vocations adviser thinks someone may have a vocation to lay ministry the next step for selection would be to come and speak to an area adviser and you take them through that process. We also support the transfer of LLMs in and out of the Diocese. We licence LLMs as a Bishop’s representative. It’s a scaled down version of the clergy licensing process. There are a lot of similarities. Kevin described how LLMs are a bridge between clergy and lay people, carrying out core teaching and preaching work, taking funerals and doing pastoral duties.

“A lot of LLMs do children’s and youth work. I have done prison ministry when we had a prison in Reading and I’ve been involved in other sorts of fresh expressions. Quite a few of us are working, so we may have a workplace ministry.”

LLMs are a range of ages, with at least one in the Diocese of Oxford still active at 90. “They bring all sorts of skills, health care, industry, hospice workers, scientists, managers and solicitors. It is much like ordained ministry. Some of them are people who have had a career before being licensed, a lot of lay ministers are carrying on with their careers. We are licensing about 15 every year and there is a steady flow of people every year we are having conversations with who are being called to do something,” says Kevin.

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