Tag Archives: Lesley Shatwell

Marking 150 years of Reader Ministry


Lesley Shatwell, our LLM in training helped St John’s and St Mark’s mark the 150th anniversary of the restoration of Reader ministry in the Church of England by preaching this sermon (well sort-of, she got heckled at St Mark’s so didn’t get through it all… ).

“For Reader, one should be appointed after he 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 assumes the position of an Evangelist; for whoever fills the ear of the ignorant will be accounted as having his name written with God.”  This comes from “The Apostolic Church Order” which was published before 200 AD.  Mind you, by AD 500, the position of “Reader” had fallen into decline.  It wasn’t until 1561 that the office was revived, but then there were very clear rules:  a Reader was to ‘move men to quiet and concord, and not give them cause for offence’.  They weren’t allowed to do the important things like administering the sacraments, but they were allowed to bury the dead.  Oh and it goes without saying they could not be women.  It seems as though they were a cheap form of priest.

However, 150 years ago on Ascension Day 1866, the office of Reader was revived for a second time.  It happened during a time of huge expansion of the church, particularly within cities of the industrial north and there simply weren’t enough vicars to cope.  Readers took on the role of teacher in Sunday Schools, leading worship in mission halls and teaching Bible classes.  Being lay ministers, they were seen as bridging the gap between the ordained clergy and parishioners.  One clergyman even describing them as ‘the better educated from among the uneducated’ – what a disparaging view of his parishioners that man must have had!

The First World War turned many people’s lives upside down and inside out.  Readers were encouraged to preach during the evening service.  After the war, the element of preaching was retained.  In the 1920s, the first national organisation specifically for Readers was created.  Readers were given better training and standards were raised.

However, it wasn’t until 1969 when women were first licensed – just think what the world had been missing in all those years!  And today, according to the Church of England website, there are more than 10,000 active Readers in the Church of England.

In 2009, the name Licensed Lay Minister (LLM) was coined to replace the term “Reader”.  It was thought to reflect more clearly exactly what we do, but I am not sure it does.  Yes, we do more than read – although through my course I have wondered about that as I wade through the mountain of set books!  We are ministers of the church, but we are laity.  We get into all kinds of places, most are licensed to a parish but some are chaplains in prisons, hospitals, hospices or schools and a few are in charge of parishes.  We have been described as ‘theological resource people working within a pastoral context’.  But what does that really mean?  And more particularly, what does it mean to me and our parish?  On 25 June, provided I pass my remaining assignments, Bishop Andrew will license me to this parish – yes you are stuck with me, I’m not being moved on to another parish.  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 – oh the Church of England doesn’t let anyone loose that quickly, there’s no knowing what I might do 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 (hooray!).  As a lay minister, I have a certain degree of flexibility about my ministry, so I am still on a voyage of discovery.  As you look around you will see an art installation here (come back this afternoon – between 2 and 4 and there will be tea, scones and music too).  I am interested in creative worship and different ways of exploring God – prayer stations, labyrinth, music, art, storytelling, play … wow – now I’m getting carried away!

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.

Listen, is God calling you?

Free Minfulness Day

St Mark’s Church Upper Hale, is offering a free Mindfulness Day on Saturday 11th June, 10:30am-3pm, run by the Health and Well-being Advisor for the Diocese of Guildford, Suzette Jones, who has much experience in running Mindfulness groups. St Mark’s also offer free sessions that are run on the morning of the first Monday of each month. Mindfulness is simply paying attention to our experience in the present moment with an attitude of kindly acceptance.

Suzette Jones said, “You are warmly invited to attend this free day on keeping our Mindfulness practice alive. The day will include several meditations and practices, new and old.”

Lesley Shatwell, who is a member of the church and who will be helping to run the sessions commented, “Mindfulness practice can help us to feel awake, aware, be present for more of our lives; to choose our actions more wisely; to let go of worries and habits which no longer work for us, and to boost our well-being and compassion for self and others.”

Spaces are limited so please register your interest to:
lapislezuli@hotmail.com tel: 01252 314703

Bring a packed lunch, drinks are provided.

Prayer, Art and Scones!

St John’s Church, Hale are hosting an art installation from 8-15th May based around the Lord’s Prayer. All are welcome to visit the church on any day 9-5 to see the artwork and pray if they wish. In addition, from 2-4pm on 8th, 14th and 15th May there will be scones and teas provided and local musicians will play.

This is inspired by Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu, who wrote to every priest in the country with a request, “In the week leading up to Pentecost (May 8th – 15th, 2016) we long to see a great wave of prayer across our land, throughout the Church of England and many other Churches.”

Lesley Shatwell, who is training to be a lay minister in the parish said, “I was inspired by the idea of a wave of prayer and have asked local artists to create seven artistic interpretations of phrases from the Lord’s Prayer. Everyone is welcome to visit and enjoy the artwork, you don’t have to be a churchgoer – I believe that all of us can find art and music to be a spiritual experience, and what could be better than scones in the afternoon?”

You can find out more on the Thy Kingdom Come website: http://thykingdom.co.uk/


Ever felt like the world is just going too fast?  Is there always too much to do and too little time?  Well, (how do I explain it, this might be awkward …) perhaps you need some time-out.  I know, for so many of us busy people, the last thing we can contemplate is spending time breathing, taking time for ourselves – that’s way too indulgent and what good does it do anyway, that’s not going to solve any problems.  Hang on a minute … “time breathing”?  How hard can that be?  I’m going to breathe anyway, because if I don’t, then I’m really not going to get everything done.

Breathing.  Yes, it’s strange, for most of us, breathing is one of those things which we just let our bodies get on with.  But for over a year now, some folks in St Mark’s have been finding out about breathing Mindfully.  Sitting, focussing on our breath and parking our worries and problems just for a few minutes.  And gradually, our busy, busy minds take a break, take a breather and we are refreshed to carry on with all the stuff of life.

It’s not rocket science.  People have known about Mindfulness for millennia.  Some people might call it a form of prayer, a way of being still and letting God get a word in edgeways.  For others it’s a technique which helps them de-stress.  For still others again, it does nothing and it’s just a load of people sitting in a room breathing – what’s so special about that.  Ah, but … what about you?  Does it work for you?  Would you like to give it a go?

We hold drop-in Mindfulness sessions once a month at St Mark’s.  9.30 am on (usually) the first Monday of the month.  At the moment, they are led by Suzette Jones, the Diocesan Health and Well-being Adviser.  Check out the weekly notice sheets and look for the notices up around our churches, or e-mail me if you would like to go on our mailing list.  The next sessions are Monday, 7 December and 4 January 2016.

Advent 1 Sermon – I’ll do it tomorrow

Jeremiah 33.14-16
1 Thessalonians 3.9-13
Luke 21.25-36

Christmas shopping? Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow.

Christmas cards, last day for posting? Tomorrow, that’ll be fine, they will get there.

What about all those letters to friends I only ever write to at Christmas? What am I going to say? Oh, I’ll think of something tomorrow.

Yes, I’m too busy right now, I’ll do it all tomorrow.

But there’s rather a lot to do, I’m going to run out of tomorrows if I don’t get myself organised.

Run out of tomorrows … Surely not, there will always be a tomorrow … won’t there?

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

We have just heard that in the Gospel reading this morning. Is Jesus describing the day when there is no tomorrow?

The end of the world, Christmas cancelled? I’m not ready for that. I’m looking forward to Christmas. Christmas comes each year. Surely God can’t do this to us?

“Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Look Jesus, you are frightening me now. I’ve got everything planned, I’m not ready of course, but I know how I want things to be. I want carols and mince pies and mulled wine and friends and family and lots of music and presents and Christmas cards. A white Christmas this year too please, but only when everyone has safely got home to their families – we don’t want snow to disrupt all the travel plans.

Some people are completely ready of course and I’ve got no excuse really. The shops have been full of festive Christmas stuff since September. Christmas cakes have been made, puddings stirred. Come on God, don’t spoil our Christmas with all this end of the world stuff.

Wait a minute, let’s stop and think. There! The world didn’t end did it? But it was a close call for we are told that the world might end at any moment. Scientists tell us that an asteroid could hit the earth and wipe out all life – but it hasn’t … yet. The Bible is full of dire, apocalyptic predictions of the Day of Judgement and the earliest Christians believed that it would happen very soon. But two thousand years on and we might be getting a little more relaxed about the time-scale for the end of days.

Today it’s the start of Advent, a time of preparation and waiting. A Christian time when we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. In our OT reading from Jeremiah this morning, we heard that the Jews were waiting for the coming of the Messiah too. Jeremiah reminded the people of the promise God had made them that, “I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

As Christians, we celebrate the birth of Jesus on 25 December each year. We watch each Sunday as another candle is lit on our Advent wreath and we get ready, keeping on watching and waiting.

It is all about getting our priorities right. Not getting too bogged down in things which gnaw away at our time and which, ultimately are of no use whatsoever. And along with all the festivities and fun and family holiday stuff, Santa Claus, the mince pies, the Christmas trees and decorations, let’s find some time to spend with the one whose birth started the whole celebration.

So, what are we waiting for? Summer’s over for another year and it’s Advent: time to get ready to meet God. We know God’s coming, but if we keep putting things off till tomorrow, we may just run out of tomorrows and we’ll never be ready.

On your marks … get set …


Lesley Shatwell 29/11/15

I am the bread of life

I woke this morning to the smell of freshly baked bread.

Ah, how wonderful is that!

Bob’s my baker, he loads the bread-maker the night before and knows how to set the timer so we can enjoy fresh bread for breakfast. And I know how lucky I am. The staff of life, bread, has become a real pleasure for us rather than a basic necessity. We also know that many people in our world go hungry and we are really privileged to have good food.

In the gospel story Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life” … And what’s more, today, we have heard how he takes this idea one stage further suggesting that people are to eat his flesh and blood.

That’s an odd thing to say. The people at the time were baffled, I’m a bit baffled too. Throughout chapter 6 of John’s gospel, Jesus seems to have this thing about bread, I’m tempted to say, he was on a roll.

Was Jesus really bread and what’s all this “bread of life” how is that different from ordinary bread, from the bread I ate this morning? And eating anyone’s flesh and blood – that’s gross. I expect we have got our own opinions about what Jesus meant and no doubt the people who witnessed that at the time were equally divided in their thoughts. It was too much for some, they left Jesus (oh oh, spoiler alert, that comes next week in the readings: John 6.66 – look out for it!)

So, enough of what is to come, let’s go back to the beginning: if you were in church for the first of this series of readings – oh about the end of July some time … or perhaps you have been avidly reading your lectionary, you might remember that John’s gospel chapter 6 opens with the story of the feeding of the 5000.

Miracles are fixed in time. For us, it’s 2000 years ago. For the people in Jesus’ time it might have been a few days ago. They had a party, had plenty to eat and didn’t have to work for it – hey! Let’s do it again, what we need is another miracle.

Wait a moment: feeding 5000? There aren’t 5000 people in this part of Galilee. Who counted?

But we all had some fish and bread to eat … Oh yes, really … did nobody but a small boy actually bother to think about bringing a picnic? And what about that small boy? What was he doing all by himself? Where’s his mum and dad?

Come on Jesus! Give us more bread, fresh toast, with butter and marmalade this time please, I don’t like fish. Why don’t you stay here with us, you could be our baker. Oh and when we are poorly, perhaps you could do some healing miracles for us. And we don’t really like the Romans, we have to pay taxes to them, it would be much better if you would hurry up and get rid of them so we can live happily here. Come on Jesus, get a move on!

Oh dear, was this what God had in mind?

Jesus has mentioned bread before. When he was tempted in the wilderness, before he started his ministry proper. Do you remember, Jesus has been fasting for 40 days when the devil tempts him saying that if he is the son of God, he could turn the stones into bread. What does Jesus reply?

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

That comes from Matthew 4.4. But being a keen student at the moment, I looked up where Jesus had got the quotation from: Deuteronomy 8.3. Oh I could tell you a thing or two about Deuteronomy, but I’ll spare you and just give a brief résumé: the book reminds the Jewish people of their origins including how they were brought safely out of slavery in Egypt and given manna to eat in the wilderness. Clearly, the people in John’s gospel knew that story very well because they ask Jesus for similar proof. You can’t argue with manna, it falls from heaven, no one knows what it is and how it gets there so it must be a sign from God. And it comes in handy if you are hungry and in the wilderness.

God provided manna in the wilderness and the people were saved from starvation. They went on to live out their lives and die. So what’s Jesus offering? True and living bread, his very essence, his flesh and blood which we remember in the Eucharist.

We keep coming back to food. Bread, even if it is in the form of manna. Come on God, we can’t think on an empty stomach. “Give us this day our daily bread!” And Jesus seems to be saying, yes, humans need food to live, to keep from starvation, but we need more than that, we hunger for the word of God in our lives.

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

What are we really looking for?

Isn’t it time we woke up and smelt the true bread of life?

Lesley Shatwell