By Betsy Everett
Two members of the congregation of St Oswald’s Church in Askrigg have been formally commissioned as lay worship leaders by the vicar of the benefice of upper Wensleydale, the Revd Dave Clark.
Prior to the ceremony Christine Hallas and MaryRose Kearney undertook training which will allow them officially to lead services, other than those that can only be taken by an ordained minister, throughout the benefice.
The commissioning was a solemn event with laying on of hands and anointing by priest and churchwardens, followed by a service of holy communion in the 15th-century parish church, as Dr Hallas and Mrs Kearney affirmed their desire to exercise the ministry of lay worship with the help and support of the members of the benefice. But as it was also a family service a light touch was provided by the children who made Pentecost crowns of fire for everyone, including the new lay leaders.
Lay involvement in worship is being encouraged by the Church of England, partly in response to declining clergy numbers. At a service in May in Ripon Cathedral Nick Baines, bishop of Leeds, said that during the next ten years the number of ordained, stipendiary, clergy was predicted to fall by 40 per cent. The numbers being ordained were increasing, he said, but would never compensate for the loss over the same period through clergy retirement.
“However, this offers us an opportunity to think afresh how we are to resource our parishes with both clergy and lay ministers into the future. Inevitably, the role of clergy will need to change as will our approach to pastoral reorganisation,” said the bishop.