My Licensing as LLM

“For Reader [Licensed Lay Minister], one should be appointed after he[she] has been carefully proved; no babbler, nor drunkard, nor jester; of good morals, submissive, of benevolent intentions, first in the assembly at the meetings on the Lord’s Day, of a plain utterance, and capable of clearly expounding, mindful that he[she] assumes the position of an Evangelist …” This comes from “The Apostolic Church Order” which was published before 200 AD. Readers (LLMs) have been around for a good few hundred years, although it wasn’t until 1969 when women were first licensed.

I have been studying for the last three years so that I can be licensed to minister in this parish. At times it has seemed a very long time indeed and now, at last, on 25 June I will be licensed by Bishop Andrew at St Peter’s Farnborough together with my two fellow students and perhaps others renewing their license for this diocese. I will have completed three years of training in topics as diverse as Christian Ethics, how to prepare and give a sermon, Bible Studies – hermeneutics (Old and New Testaments – and a bit of the Apocrypha!), Church History, Mission and Evangelism (didn’t enjoy that one much), Doctrine – that was probably my favourite – oh and Spirituality and Pastoral Theology. And in my spare time, I’ve been attending church!

So I am coming to the end of this part of my studies (I have another four years within the system still because the Church of England doesn’t let anyone loose that quickly, there’s no knowing what I might say to you!). Alan and I have been discussing my future role within the parish, particularly because I won’t be the only newcomer in July: Hannah will be joining us as curate. As a lay minister, I have a certain degree of flexibility about my ministry, so I am still on a voyage of discovery. I am interested in creative worship and different ways of exploring God – prayer stations, labyrinth, music, art, storytelling, play. God calls every one of us. And God gives us gifts to serve Him and to share with others. We are happiest and at our most alive when we walk within our God-given-gifts. God has called me to become a Licensed Lay Minister here and I am so excited to discover where He leads me in my ministry.

But for the time being, I invite you all to come to my licensing:

St Peter’s Farnborough, Saturday 25 June, 5 for 5.30 pm.

If you can’t get to my licensing, perhaps I will see you in church on Sunday 26 June when I will be racing round the whole parish to see as many of you as I can at each of our churches. At St Mark’s we will be sharing a buffet lunch at 12 noon – please come along.

Licensing, hum … I suppose it will be proved that I’m no babbler and I think my morals are good and I certainly have benevolent intentions.

Lesley Shatwell


Autopsies of dead churches

I’ve read an article about what causes churches to have to close their doors. I found it very interesting. It feels a bit macabre, especially as it is a book review of Thom Rainer’s book “Anatomy of a Deceased Church.”  It is based on 14 ‘autopsies’ of dead churches, which does sound very depressing! However, autopsies are essentially there for the living so that we can thrive, and anyway, so many churches are in decline at the moment, we need to know what not to do! The key points that struck me were these:

  1. Slow erosion is the worst type of decline for churches, because the members have no sense of urgency to change.
  1. The most pervasive and common thread of our autopsies was that the deceased churches lived for a long time with the past as hero.
  1. More than any one item, these dying churches focused on their own needs instead of others.
  1. Members of the dying churches really didn’t want growth unless that growth met their preferences and allowed them to remain comfortable.
  1. When the church is engaged in meaningful prayer, it becomes both the cause and the result of greater church health.
  1. None of the members asked what they should be doing; they were too busy doing what they’ve always done.
  1. The dying churches, at some point in their history, forgot their purpose.
  1. Yes, reversal is possible, but God usually waits for a willing leader who will find willing people.

So. Let us look to the future, not to the past. Let us not do things just because they have always been done and let us have a vision for the future and most of all, let us pray!