Methodist VP to visit Alton

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We're looking forward to the visit to Alton this month by the Methodist Vice-President Gill Dascombe. She is a clinical pharmacist by profession and a Local Preacher. I had the pleasure of hearing her speak in March at a conference of Methodist Lay Workers at High Leigh in Hertfordshire, when she rallied her colleagues saying, 'my calling is to the laity. Lay ministry is not second best.'

I inwardly cheered! What a good message to hear, as someone involved in lay ministry myself, as a Church of England Reader (or LLM, Licensed Lay Minister, as we are now known in the Winchester Diocese). It is heartening to see more and more lay people getting involved in church in all sorts of ways as part of the call, to us all, to be disciples of Jesus.

I was relieved that GAP (the Greater Alton Project) had the foresight to allow lay people like me to apply for the role of Chaplain to Older People, back in 2009, for example. Otherwise I might never have been able to become an Anna Chaplain. Can this really be my sixth year, having started in January 2010?

Next year marks the 150th anniversary of modern day Reader ministry and there are ambitious plans to mark the occasion by making 'a gift to the church' of a grand day out in the Midlands called "Follow."*
Leicester's De Montfort Hall has been booked, which seats more than two thousand people. Dr Paula Gooder, an eminent New Testament scholar (and a Reader herself) is to be a speaker, and there's going to be a vast array of activities on offer at what's billed as 'A Celebration of Discipleship," open to everyone — that's all denominations.

I hope from Alton we may organise a GAP coach, maybe, to travel up to it on July 16? Anna Chaplaincy to Older People will be represented there through The Gift of Years — 'resourcing the spiritual journey of older people'. Some of you will know I am now The Gift of Years Team Leader, as well as remaining a part-time Anna Chaplain here and, of course, our chaplaincy, and all that is done here ecumenically and in partnership with other visitors also promoting the spiritual welfare of older people locally, lies at the heart of this national initiative since last year.

As well as The Gift of Years, another part of The Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) is 'Messy Church,' which also began in a Hampshire parish. Messy Church is on the list of organisations which will be represented in Leicester too.

It was on Ascension Day 1866 that the order of Readers was re-inaugurated, and in 2016 the wider church promises to join together in celebrating in some style the 150 years since that historic event.

Readers are called to 'preach, teach and lead worship.' I'm so pleased to have been able to pursue a lay ministry in this way, and thankful to all of you who support me and our other Anna Chaplains. Helen Jesty is an ordained Deacon, and Jonathan Rooke, our latest Anna Chaplain, will be licensed as an LLM in Winchester Cathedral in October.

To be involved in lay ministry is not to be an also ran, given the title as a sort of consolation prize for not being good enough for priestly ministry. It is a distinctive vocation in its own right.

There are nearly ten thousand such unpaid, volunteer lay ministers in the Church of England. Our newest recruit to Anna Chaplaincy- in St Anne's in Lancashire- is also from the laity. Richard Golding is a former teacher and now a local preacher and Anna Chaplain for Community-based Mission and Ministry to Older People within the South Fylde Circuit of the Methodist Church.

I think it's terrific what the Methodist Church is doing to promote chaplaincy nationally through its movement 'Chaplaincy Everywhere.' We hope the Vice-President, will enjoy seeing, among other things here, an example in practice of what the Methodist Connexion is championing, and specifically helping to fund in the way of Helen's appointment as a GAP Anna Chaplain in Alton and surrounding villages. Gill Dascombe is assured of a warm welcome when she comes on May 19.

And don't forget to put that other date next July, 2016, in your diary too!

*"Follow" is on July 16, 2016 in Leicester. More details on the Reader website http://www.readers.cofe.anglican.org/news_item.php?207

Debbie Thrower

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