New vicar at Reading Minster
The new vicar at Reading Minster, Sonya Wratten, begins her tenure this month with a livestreamed collation service at the Minster on 19 April at 7pm. Sonya will play a key part in the life and community of Reading and the surrounding areas, focusing specifically on worship, pastoral care, practical evangelism, civic voice, and inclusivity. Sonya will be joining just under 40 stipendiary incumbents, associates and curates and the same number of self-supporting and retired clergy who work with around 3000 Christians, serving the 250,000 people of the Reading deanery.
Responding to her appointment, Sonya said;
“It is such a joy that this role has come along and feels very Spirit-driven. My husband and I had only been to Reading once prior to seeing this role advertised and we both loved it and felt instantly like we were home. I have always ministered in contexts of religious diversity, with my current role as a health care chaplain in Leicester really cementing my passion for diversity and inclusion whether that be racial, religious or gender based so I am so thrilled to be returning to parish ministry where I can continue to work amongst such a vibrant, welcoming community.”
The footprint of Reading deanery is relatively small but serves a culturally diverse community with the Reading Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin acting us the hub for a core, dedicated congregation as well as welcoming transient worshippers either passing through or engaging with the Minster’s well known outreach projects which draw on its Benedictine heritage, providing a welcoming place of renewal and refreshment. Projects include FAITH Street (an evening support group for those experiencing poverty and homelessness where warm food, drinks and fellowship from a team of volunteers are provided) and Sanctuary, on a Friday and Saturday night, when the church is opened up as a safe space for those feeling vulnerable or needing a place of refuge. Church volunteers offer pastoral support to all involved in the night economy and work in partnership with members of the South-Central Ambulance Service and Reading Street Pastors.
Having been keenly involved in Inclusive Church as she came to ordination, Sonya is deeply committed to the mission and growth of this area. She also hopes to use the experience from her time as a hospital chaplain at the Leicester Royal Infirmary to shape her ministry and dialogue with the Minster and deanery. She says,
“Working in a critical context, especially during the pandemic, has been an extraordinary experience and I have encountered some of the most difficult times of my ministry as well as some of the best, with people going to exceptional lengths to support friends, family and even complete strangers.
“Whilst I haven’t been able to reflect fully on the last year, I hope to be able to use my experiences to shape the work I do with the community to support them through these, hopefully, final stages of the pandemic.”
Prior to ordination, Sonya worked in community development and regeneration, and she cites her role as a community development worker at the Diocese of Southwark as a key part of her decision to become an ordained minister. This year sees her celebrate the 10th anniversary of her ordination and she is sure that this role is God’s way of allowing her work in regeneration to come full circle.
The Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Olivia Graham said;
“I am delighted that Sonya has accepted the invitation to be the next vicar at Reading Minster. Her compassion, strength and courage to challenge where necessary, were clear during the interview process and I am excited about the part she will play in helping the Minster achieve its potential as a centre for missional engagement in a rapidly changing, diverse town centre.”
Watch Sonya’s collation service on 19 April at 7pm.