Dr Stephen Linton - LLM Registrar and Secretary
May 5 was the 150th anniversary of the reintroduction of LLM (Reader) Ministry in the Church of England.
Readers were so-called as they used to read the service and the sermon in the absence of the vicar, but the title was thought to be confusing, so it was recently changed to Licensed Lay Minister (LLM), which gives a clearer our role:
- We are Licensed by the Bishop to serve in a particular parish, and that is after a selection process and training.
- We are Lay – that is we are members of the congregation, the laity, and are not ordained as clergy, so we hope to bring insights from our roles outside church, and take something of God’s love back with us out into God’s world.
- And we are Ministers – ministers of the Word, not the Sacraments. So we preach and lead at services, take funerals, lead groups, act as chaplains… and many other roles in our local communities.
"All disciples of Jesus should have similar roles to LLMs, in serving God in church, and showing God’s love to those whom we meet."
In many dioceses the ministry of LLMs is vital to maintain the ministry of parishes with multiple church buildings. Within the C of E there are about 10,000 LLMs – almost as many as there are clergy. In the Diocese of Guildford there are 89 parishes or benefices with one or more LLMs, but 60 without one.
To celebrate the 150th anniversary we decided that an LLM should preach in as many parish churches as possible on the following Sunday. For those parishes with no LLM, we offered to find a ‘spare’ to preach on that date. Within the diocese we had 15 requests and managed to fill 14 of these.
So on the morning of May 8, I set out from my home parish of St Peter’s, Farnborough, to preach at St Margaret's, Ockley and St John the Baptist's, Okewood, in Dorking deanery. This is a very rural part of the diocese with lovely countryside for a pleasant Sunday morning drive – while avoiding the many cyclists in the Surrey Hills! The parish has two churches with morning services at 9.30 and 10.30, and I preached at both, with a quick transfer at 10.25!
I used the opportunity to preach about the importance of lay ministry in the church and how all disciples of Jesus should have similar roles to LLMs, in serving God in church, and showing God’s love to those whom we meet. I spoke of God’s call to us all as lay-members of the church to serve him in whatever role he has placed us. God uses our natural abilities but also equips us, motivates us, guides us and empowers us as we seek to serve him.
"God uses our natural abilities but also equips us, motivates us, guides us and empowers us as we seek to serve him. ... ‘Are we listening for God’s call?’"
I ended with the words of Samuel, when God was calling him: ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’, and asked the question, ‘Are we listening for God’s call?’ But, if we hear God calling, will we say (not like Isaiah), ‘Here am I, send somebody else’!
It was refreshing and exciting to preach in another church, and the congregation were very appreciative and welcoming. Maybe someone there will consider training for LLM ministry. Hopefully everyone will be listening for God’s call to serve him. And I hope that you, reading this, even if you didn’t hear a sermon from an LLM on May 8, will consider what role God has for you in his church and in his needy world.
Stephen's sermon (wth Belinda Kerry reading John Chapter 17 v20-26) from May 8 can be heard here.