Tuesday 24 July 2012

Lay Ministry - A Guide

You know how it is with most religious denominations. They want to affirm lay ministry. They want to have lay ministers. But they don't want to confuse them with real ministers - you know, minister ministers. They have to minister in a lay kind of way - that's how you tell the difference. And ministry can be very wide - including all sorts of church offices you never dreamed of - no, not those offices. Not the small, dusty rooms containing a banda machine and the church secretary. So here's a quick guide to those laity who exercise ministry. But not in a minister kind of a way. More of a lay way.

Church Steward (Methodist) - Person in smart clothes who runs things.

Door Steward (Methodist) - Person in smart clothes whose job, even for one day, is better than the life of a sinner, who has to stay away.

Circuit Steward (Methodist) - Person in smart clothes responsible for the electrical safety of the church.

Treasurer (All denominations) - Person who resigns in a huff a lot. Especially once they discover that huffs can have the tax reclaimed on them.

Organist - Ruler of all (s)he surveys. Increasingly replaced by CD players, MP3 players or, in very modern Anglican churches, barrel organs. Another person who resigns a lot, normally in a dudgeon. A dudgeon is like an underground huff.

Pastoral Assistant (Church of England)- Person who takes minutes.

Elder - Smelly green wooden object. Sorry, that's the elder tree, isn't it?

Local Preacher (Methodist)Theological Lone Ranger.

Worship Leader (All) - Somebody who requires no training. Or, sometimes, musical ability.

("Lay") Reader (Church of England) - Person suffering from extreme frustration, who gets to preach on the Sundays after Christmas and Easter when the vicar has a holiday. Constantly hoping for a (minor) accident to the vicar so they can step into the breech and preach.

Church Warden (Church of England) - Constantly fearful of a (minor) accident to the vicar, in case they have to step into the breech and preach. Responsible for the fabric of the church. No, not voile and lace. The "other" fabric.

Executive Assistant Archdruid: - Person who will never get the top job. Ever.

Deacon - In some nonconformist bodies, person awaiting the call from God to wield the (metaphorical) knife on the minister. God's Will will always call time on the minister in the end...

Sidesman/woman/person (Church of England) - No, not a clue.

Cleaners, welcomers, people who volunteer to paint, tea makers - Christ in disguise.


  1. Of all your posts, this is the one I would most like to have written

  2. I particularly like the last one on your list. Blessed are the tea-makers. And the washer-uppers.

  3. I initially thought that Lay Ministry involved Beds and lots of naps (and I suspect that it does in some Vicarages);

    However, I than discovered that it's a type of ministry for those who either don't believe that they are worthy of being ordained or second best for those who believe that they are worthy, but the Church wisely thinks otherwise.

    I was than surprised to discover that anything you do that is connected with God to serve others is actually ministry. This includes all of the categories mentioned here, although I note that you omitted certain categories:

    Grave Digger - The one in scruffy clothes who is quite serious and gossips a lot about the Vicar or Curate behind their back. Sometimes digs big holes slightly too small for the coffin and moan when corrected by the Vicar or Church Warden.

    Chorister - The men, women, boys or girls, in funny robes, who are directed by a very autocratic and crusty musical director and who sing obscure dirges and chants during services and during Holy Communion. The qualification needed for membership is to be under 10 (with a high soprano voice) or over 80. (I note the high wastage rate as the young boys develop manly hormones and their voices break)

    Acolyte - Young boy or girl server, entrusted with fire and moving candles, otherwise known as arsonist. They decorate the chancel with red robes and white surplices and get in the way of the Verger and Deacon.

    Verger - A person entrusted with organising and running things, sometimes paid or unpaid. The most officious and punctual of all laity, they clock watch, prime the Celebrant and Congregation and are a useful accessory at weddings and funerals, particularly in dictating where people shall park. God help anyone who breaks their self-written and imposed injunctions.

    Bell Ringers - a gang of men and women with a propriety interest in all things metallic that make a loud noise. Enthusiastic puller on ropes in sequence to allow the bells to make pretty loud noises. Beloved of rural natives as part of the natural landscape. Hated by urban incomers and weekender's who complain about the intrusion into their privacy or midday sleep patterns.

    Churchyard Police - those members of the laity who police the church yard to ensure that the Church Yard rules laid down in diocesan guide lines are policed rigorously - they are key in informing on anyone laying flowers on graves and not removing them, ensuring that headstones are in the correct stone, with the correct lettering and face the correct way. They take a particular interest in the corner reserved for the interment of ashes, ensuring that they are laid out in regular lines and that plain, unobtrusive markers are placed.

  4. And what about the Sunday school team, usually mothers who are good at that kind of thing because they do it all day every day anyway, and who make sure that proper worshippers can have an undisturbed time of worship?
    Every Sunday school session must by law feature at least one colouring in activity.

  5. I was going to mention Yoof workers, but had a sense of humour failure, like most of them.

  6. I forgot the CRB/Safeguarding Officer. This vital role is filled quietly, normally by a secretive, confidential member of the congregation, chosen by the Vicar for their essential qualification of being available and wanting to know where the bodies are buried (not in the churchyard that is).

    This person needs to be an efficient nagger to get appropriate people to fill out probing, nosy forms every four years (renewal) to ensure that their register is up to date and that their pieces of paper protect the Vicar and other worthies from harm, while doing little or nothing to safeguard the children and vulnerable adults.

  7. It's more frequently than every four years here, especially if someone's lost all the forms but two, including mine. I suspect the fact that I went and got my own and delivered it myself rather than go through the Special Procedure for Charities helped.


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