Sarum College works in partnership with Salisbury Diocese to train Licensed Lay Ministers (LLMs). Meet one of our students, Chris Cox, who began his training in 2015.
A bit about you – what’s your background?
I’m a retired Mental Health Nurse, fortunate to be able to retire at the age of 55. I retired in 2013 after 35 years in the NHS. I had a varied career in a variety of nursing roles, also working in quality and practice development and within our Trust’s psychotherapy team. My final position was as a Corporate Lead Nurse with a specific responsibility for pre-registration nurse education, working closely with colleagues from the University of the West of England.
I’m married with a 12 year old son. When I’m not studying, I enjoy reading, walking with our two Golden Retriever dogs and, of course, I am actively involved in many capacities in my local church (St John’s, Devizes). I have a passion for contemplative spirituality and contemplative prayer and for raising awareness of our Christian contemplative tradition.
What attracted you to lay ministry?
For some years I had been active in our church life as a Lay Pastoral Assistant (LPA) and PCC member, a member of the healing team as well as serving on a variety of other groups. I then began to feel a calling to something more and began a period of exploration and discernment. Initially I thought my calling was to ordained ministry and was considering the Permanent Diaconate. However, through personal reflection and discussions with my incumbent and others, the idea of a non-sacramental ministry with education, training and pastoral care at its core began to emerge and this led me to Licensed Lay Ministry, a ‘Preaching, Teaching and Pastoral Ministry’. My calling began to coalesce around Licensed Lay Ministry which feels right for me and will hopefully enable me to open the beauty, richness and depth of our contemplative heritage to those who may not be aware of it and to lovingly walk alongside those who need pastoral support and encouragement.
How would you describe the contribution lay ministry makes to the work of the church?
Lay ministry clearly has a long a distinguished history. Collaborating and working with ordained colleagues, lay ministers contribute to the ministry of the church amongst the congregation and within the wider community. Having a ministerial team comprising ordained and lay ministers, from a variety of backgrounds, enhances the breadth of experience available to the congregation. Lay ministers bring a different perspective and present a model of Christian discipleship that the laity may, perhaps, relate to more readily. With a wide variety of interests and vocations, lay ministers can enhance the ministry team and be a valuable and distinctive link between the laity and the institution of the church.
How do you think lay ministry will evolve in the coming years?
It does seem that there is the potential for a significant growth in the role of lay ministers as the number of stipendiary clergy continues to decline. In addition to such things as assisting with sacramental services, leading non-sacramental worship, preaching, taking home communion and pastoral visiting, I believe that the role of the lay minister will increasingly focus on teaching and group facilitation, leading, for example, formal study groups, workshops, informal sessional groups, bible study, Lectio Divina, prayer groups, etc. In this way, lay ministry can effectively contribute to leadership within the church and can greatly contribute to the enrichment of church life.
What is your experience of doing LLM training?
LLM training is an intense yet deeply satisfying experience; the commitment is significant but the rewards are great. I’m learning so much and the opportunities to engage more deeply within the life of the church is wonderful. I value the balance of the theoretical and academic with the practical and formative aspects of learning. My fellow students are extremely supportive and we are developing deep and lasting friendships. We support each other, encourage each other and are there for each other when things don’t necessarily go according to plan. The wealth of knowledge and experience available within the Sarum College team is immense. The training is certainly challenging but I’m so grateful to be doing it.
Contact us about Sarum’s learning opportunities to schedule a visit to learn more about our courses.