Alison Fisher is training to be an LLM (Licensed Lay Minister), traditionally known as a Reader in the Church of England. Alison is on a two week placement in the Benefice of Marsden and Slaithwaite, and writes about her experience…
As part of my LLM course, the last two weeks have been on placement in the Benefice of Marsden and Slaithwaite with Graeme: spending time shadowing him across the parishes. My personal situation is complex because I’m moving to Devon very shortly so my training is going to hopefully be ‘transferred’ to Exeter Diocese in September. Really my placement should have been in an unfamiliar church but it all got too complicated t o sort out so I was ‘allowed’ to spend the time with one church familiar to me and one less familiar.
Thank you to you all for the welcome you extended to me and it’s been a really good opportunity to think, share and reflect on what being part of leadership of a church family might be like.
One of the things a Lay Minister can do is lead a funeral. I’ve been privileged to share in three funerals Graeme has conducted this fortnight. Two involved burials at Pole Moor where I’d never been before. Watching and listening to how Graeme conducted three different funerals was an eye opener and the importance of the words he offered and the relationship he had with three different groups of families and friends important to see. From including a small grandchild by name to understanding the nature of someone’s long long involvement with a church, it was the personal connections and the words offered that were important. He told me he has a book with all his collected words from recently bereaved families to use as he takes funerals and that book is full of love. Could I lead a funeral ? Given time I think I could. Some Lay Ministers have very full and extended funeral ministries and that’s the main part of what they offer.
The other thing I’ve had a go at is leading Morning Prayer – both at St James’s and St Bartholomew’s. It’s a lovely service, and for anyone unfamiliar with it, or who is unable to attend in person on a Wednesday or a Thursday, there is a great ‘app’ produced by the Church of England for phones or tablets called ‘Daily Prayer’. There you can see the words for the day (for morning prayer, evening prayer and compline). If you don’t want to read it there is also a recording you can play. I quite often play it in the car on my way back from a dog walk in Devon. I enjoyed leading it and it was good to have some time for discussion afterwards. What I realised though is that I’m not very at ease praying out loud without preparation. I need to think and reflect on that, and see what may help me improve that part of leadership. Practice in part I guess. I’m also interested in what people may think about the use of silence by a prayer leader – yes or no?
Preaching at both churches turned out to be a good experience – I hope people attending felt there was something to think about. I don’t suppose anyone was going to say ‘that was awful’ ! and folk were very kind in their feedback, but I’m genuinely interested in any feedback anyone would still like to send on to me.
I also sat on the bench outside the Riverhead in Marsden and shared Morning Prayer and coffee with Graeme, thankfully in the sunshine. His regular visible prayer in a public space. I was struck by the words in the Benedictus as we sat there – “Free to worship him without fear”. In so many places in the world we would not have been safe. We should always remember that.
Both churches offer such good hospitality with lunches and conversation. Vibrant and full of welcome in both places. A real gift and such willing volunteers ! I pray those sessions continue and comfortably bring people more and more into our buildings and church families.
Lent courses were stimulating and again everyone there seemed to feel able to speak up and be interested in what each other heard from what was to be the following Sunday’s gospel reading. Something to keep up with maybe ?
Finally – the participation that had the biggest impact on me (which took me by surprise) was helping with distribution of communion. I’ve never done that before and I was honestly profoundly moved by standing holding the bread as people came up individually to receive. I’ve obviously watched that so many times, but being part of offering that was completely different. Seeing everyone’s faces and individual moments really moved me. If you think it may be something you’d like to be involved with I’d really urge you to talk to Graeme about it. What an experience.
Likewise have a go at Lay Ministry training if you feel it may be for you. Some lovely people across the Diocese will be training with you and supporting you and teaching you !
So thank you one and all, and thanks to Graeme (and Carol for her robe!). You have offered me your time, welcome and encouragement and for that I’m very grateful. As I (and Dave and Benji of course) leave to move to Devon permanently I’m feeling very blessed. I pray that Marsden and Slaithwaite Church families continue to grow and thrive. They are lovely places and people to be part of. You will always be a big part of who I am and a significant part of my ‘faith journey’. Below is a picture I did on the introduction to theology course to try and illustrate the significant bits of that journey which may or may not make sense to anyone else! The ‘why nots’ at the bottom are about moving into Lay Ministry training…..
God Bless you all, Alison (Fisher)