After 11 years in the role, Archdeacon of Salop, the Ven Paul Thomas passes the bookmark to Revd Harvey Gibbons, Vicar of St Oswald’s, Oswestry and Rector of Rhydycroesau.
The role is one of offering pastoral care for Readers and working with the Vocations & Ministry team to promote lay ministry around the diocese.
Announcing the appointment, Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield said:
“Paul has been steadfast in supporting the ministry of Readers in our parishes across the diocese for eleven years and I thank him for his support for this vital lay ministry. He has brought his wide and deep learning of spiritual and theological matters to the Readers’ gatherings and given support to many in their ministry.
"I'm delighted that Harvey has accepted my invitation to take on the role: his appreciation and championing the ministry of Readers is just what we need, and I hope he will be a blessing to many in this work."
“It has been a great privilege to serve as the diocesan Warden of Readers since 2012 and to be ably assisted in that role by the Associate Warden of Readers, John Maddison. Despite working just eight hours a week, Cath Hughes has also been brilliant in maintaining a highly efficient administrative backup to my work. I am grateful to Lindsey Hall, Jeanette Hartwell and more recently Clare Whitney for their valued contribution to Reader training and formation.
"During my period of office we celebrated in 2016 the 150th anniversary of Reader Ministry in the Church of England and we devised a Reader ‘Banquet’ to highlight that great landmark, in which Readers from the diocese gathered for a day at Yarnfield for worship, teaching and fellowship. This was so popular that it has become an annual event attracting speakers like Lucy Winkett, Adrian Thatcher and Rowan Williams.
"The National Church has explored how Reader ministry might play an increasingly significant role - as mentors of other lay ministries, as ‘focal’ ministers, and in their capacity as ‘lay theologians,’ as a teaching resource. Alongside that how Readers might diversify their contribution and exercise more than a preaching and worship leading role.
"I am delighted that Harvey Gibbons will succeed me and I am confident that he will bring fresh energy and insight to the role of Warden and take forward the development of this very important expression of ministry in a Church experiencing profound liminality.
"My sincere gratitude is extended to every Reader in the Diocese for the dedication, imagination and enthusiasm you demonstrate in proclaiming the love of Christ in your particular community and for the wonderful encouragement you have given me as I have heard so many of your stories and shared just a little of your journey.
“Readers are a key part of the ministry in our churches. Readers are best thought of as lay theologians, bringing their Biblical knowledge to bear on the secular world and occupations that they inhabit, and bring their talent to support clergy in preaching and leading worship in their parishes.
Harvey was ordained in 1999 and served his curacy and first incumbency in Salisbury Diocese before a stint in Swindon. He came to Oswestry in 2018.
“I am honoured and excited to have been invited by Bishop Michael to be Diocesan Warden of Readers. Readers are licensed and hold the Bishop’s authority to minister in their locality; they are trained to be expert practitioners working alongside clergy and lay members of their communities; as members of the laity they bring an in valuable lay perspective on mission. The ministry of readers provides a vital and distinctive contribution to the life of our churches, with a ministry as diverse as the people who are called to it. During my twenty years of ordained ministry, I have enjoyed helping with the discernment, training, and working alongside Readers across three dioceses. I now look forward to working with Readers and diocesan colleagues as we continue to explore how Readers can contribute towards and speak into the rapidly changing missional needs of the Church of England.” he said.
Harvey will be commissioned at a special Eucharist at Lichfield Cathedral on Saturday 9 September at 11.30, the same occasion as the annual celebration of Readers who’ve served terms of 25 and occasionally 50 years service.
It will be followed by the annual Licensing of nine new Readers service at 2.00pm.
More information about the role and process of becoming a Reader can be found on our website at lichfield.anglican.org/readers/ and anyone wondering whether the role might be for them should contact the diocese’s Lay Ministerial Learning and Development Officer, Clare Witney via their vicar.