People called to lay ministry share their inspiring stories
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Pauline Stanton Saringer
Fitting into the ministry leadership team
“I feel really drawn to prison ministry and my training has encouraged me to develop this ministry. I felt God nudging me for some time and I kept thinking I couldn’t fit in all the study with family and work. But somehow you do!”
Licensed Lay Ministry summarised
I sometimes wonder how much of what I do in and around our church is ‘LLM ministry’, and how much is simply ‘me-ministry’?
- Member of vicar’s leadership team: my specific responsibility is overall organisation/coordination of the home group system. Team leaders meet together with the vicar weekly;
- Run a weekly home group with my wife;
- Preach at a Sunday service – typically once a month, though it could be more;
- Lead a service once or twice a month;
- Lead intercessions;
- Assist with the cup at communion;
- Impromptu assistance on prayer ministry team;
- Take monthly home communions;
- Sometimes represent the church at occasional events where the vicar or representative is invited;
- Have led Alpha Courses (one of which spawned our house group);
- I often get ‘collared’ by members of the congregation and asked a question on what the Bible says about… or why do/don’t we… A Licensed Lay Minister is ‘one of us’ (the laity). It is a special/wonderful/privileged relationship;
- In the past I have also had a significant and very enjoyable ministry of helping out other local churches.
Being an LLM is a great conversation turner at work or socially. It provides non-threatening responses to ‘What did you do this weekend?’ type questions, which invite further discussion.
I retire next year, so I hope to be able to do more: for example, take a greater share in the weekly leading and preaching. What exciting new challenges will God have for me? I’m eagerly awaiting to see.
Do I enjoy my ministry? Absolutely yes.
Do I wish I had time to do more? Absolutely yes.
What tasks satisfy me most?
- The Alpha course my wife and I led;
- Watching our house group members grow in faith and maturity;
- Seeing God work through prayer ministry.
Dr Dolapo Ogunbawo
My call to Licensed Lay Ministry
‘Omo ni o jogun ise owo mi,’ simply translated expresses what a great blessing it is for children to follow in their parents’ footsteps. My siblings and Nigerian friends repeated this to me over and over when I announced my licensing as a lay minister.
I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, into a Christian family. Both my parents were committed Christians of the Anglican Communion who participated actively in church life and service. My dad was licensed as a Lay Reader in 1969, became President of the Lay Readers’ Association in 1977, was elevated to become a Diocesan Lay Reader on 1988 by the Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Nigeria and became Patron of the Lagos Archdeaconry Association of Lay Readers on 1991 until his death in December 2004. He was so proud of his ministry and service as a lay reader that he requested to be buried in his robes!
I relocated to Berkshire in 2004 and joined Holy Trinity Sunningdale. Following in my Father’s footsteps to serve as a lay minister had been on my mind long before I left Nigeria, but a number of personal challenges and my relocation to the UK with the time required to settle down made me put it on the back burner.
At the opening of 2010, while praying about the will of God, I felt so persistently the desire to step forward and answer the call for training, but because there was no lay minister at Holy Trinity, I did not know how to go about it so I asked God to open a way for me to make enquiries.
A week later, I received an email from a friend and member of the preaching team at Holy Trinity inviting me to give the address at the 2010 Women’s Day of Prayer. When she visited me at home to talk about the event we chatted about a number of other matters. Suddenly, she mentioned her surprise that I had accepted her request to give the address without hesitation. So I shared with her the call for training I believed God had placed on my mind and my reservations about making enquiries because there is no lay minister at Holy Trinity. She encouraged me to speak to the Vicar about it and I promised to do so provided the feedback from my address from the Day of Prayer was positive.
I met with the Vicar shortly after the event and shared my aspiration and desire for lay ministry training. He was delighted and very supportive of my intention. But first, he invited me to become part of the preaching and service leaders’ team. My services on these ministry teams helped to highlight my gifts and skills for others to see and further helped to affirm my call for licensed lay ministry.
With the full support of my Incumbent, the PCC and congregation I attended my selection conference and began training in the spring of 2011.
My licensing will mark the beginning of a ministry that will be recognised publicly. It will also be the completion of a process that began long ago probably from the time I was conceived when God who knew me then as he knows me now made a plan for my life of service in his church. I pray for God’s guidance and grace as I continue in his service.
A heart for children and families
I was licensed as a Licensed Lay Minister in November 2009 and so am right at the start of my ministry.
I am a qualified primary school teacher and work part time for the local authority as an inclusion adviser, leading training courses for practitioners. I feel strongly that I have a ministry at work, especially because much of my work involves listening to and supporting other people.
Children and young people are also at the heart of my ministry in the benefice in which I serve. I have become involved with our after school club; ‘Not Sunday, Not School’. This takes place on a fortnightly basis and is aimed at children from 3-11. We offer a drink and a snack at the start of the session and after this there are Bible themed stories, songs, crafts, games and cooking.
We always end with a short act of worship.
Very recently I have become the co-ordinator for our popular Pram Service for Under 5’s on Friday mornings. My role involves nurturing and supporting the young mothers who come, helping to plan the services and also getting to know the parents and their children. I also hope to enable them to become more involved in other aspects of the church such as Emmaus courses, Bible study groups and the other activities that we run for children during the school holidays.
There are primary schools in two of our villages and I work as a volunteer in one of them.
The other aspect of my ministry that I really enjoy is planning and leading all-age worship. At my own parish church there is a music group and several people who have gifts in drama and using puppets in worship. During my training I ran a training course on all age worship. This has resulted in several people coming forward to lead or speak at these services.
Reader ministry in South Africa
I was licensed as a Reader in 1964 and have been ministering in my local church and beyond ever since.
In 1963 I was sent out to the Argentine Chaco as a medical missionary. I was 28 and just married. Our first house was built of mud bricks with a corrugated iron roof and no electricity or running water. The pastor of my local church, a Wichi Indian, welcomed me to share in ministry to his flock, mostly ethnic Aboriginals with only primary education. Although lacking secondary education, many were far more mature Christians than I was.
I had to dovetail preparing several sermons a week with being the first resident doctor, initiating a primary health care programme 200 km from the nearest hospital. Sometimes we visited faraway villages with no church, who had never heard of Jesus. They welcomed us, gathering together to hear an evangelistic talk.
By 1980 we had helped to train Indian auxiliary nurses in most villages, and with elderly parents and children’s secondary education to consider we returned to the UK. I was immediately pounced on by my local vicar to get a renewed Reader’s licence and to help in the preaching. I am now a Licensed Lay Minister in Woodley, Reading, where I have been a GP since 1982.
It’s hard being a full-time GP and taking on LLM responsibilities, but it’s harder in Reading aged 74 than being in rural South America aged 28! I retired fully in 2002 from Chaco and GP work but I continue as an LLM. My role here is very similar to the Chaco ministry; preaching, prayer ministry and sick visiting. European extras are helping in a house-group and leading Holy Communion by extension.
Preaching in the UK I find harder work than in the Chaco; there it could be several times a week, sometimes with only half an hour to prepare in Wichi and in Spanish. Here there is a month to prepare but the flock is rather different.
I have three grown up children and five grandchildren. I live in a small village in North Buckinghamshire where the village church is part of a benefice of five villages.
I was licensed in 2004. At the time I was working as a pastoral assistant in the chaplaincy team at Milton Keynes hospital and my main focus of ministry was the hospital. Being a Licensed Lay Minister in a hospital is very different from that of the parish. The work is largely pastoral work with sick, dying and bereaved but also includes leading Sunday worship in chapel for patients and volunteers and listeners to hospital radio. It also included occasional teaching/group sessions and caring for staff. Listening and sharing issues was an important part of our work. Sometimes it meant offering a prayer but mostly being there to share the concerns, fears, hopes, loss and pain of others. One man I spent a lot of time with as he told me his life story had no faith but asked me to take his funeral. Another time I was involved with a couple who lost a baby and I was able to be part of that funeral. I took Holy Communion to those who were unable to come to the service in the chapel.
I thoroughly enjoyed my work in the hospital and found it a real privilege to be with sick and vulnerable people, sharing in their joys and sorrows. I often felt I received more than I gave. It’s certainly not for everyone in ministry. I believe you can only do it for a limited time before you need to do something different as I did! After working in hospital ministry for some years I was ready for a change. After a three month sabbatical I knew that my main ministry focus now was to be in the benefice.
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