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A Reader through the decades

First published on: 18th October 2023

Over at St Anne’s, Clifton, Frank Wallace is approaching his 90th birthday, and this isn’t his only cause for celebration. One of the longest-serving Readers in the diocese, Frank has been leading services for no less than 54 years and estimates the number he has taken to be around 500!

His decades-spanning ministry began in January 1969 when he was admitted and licensed following two years of training. It was his then-Incumbent Rev Barry Newth who suggested that he should step into the role; as it transpired, Barry was to be the first of no less than six incumbents whom Frank has served over the decades! An active member of his parish, Frank also edited the parish magazine for thirty years and served as Gift Aid Secretary, a member of the PCC, and a member of Deanery Synod until just this year.

In his early days as a Reader, Frank would oversee Matins and Evensong in all the parishes of what was then Eccles Deanery, going on to visit almost every church in Salford too. One particularly memorable service for Frank dates back to around thirty years ago:

Frank was due to take Morning Prayer in Cadishead, but had been suffering from a persistent cough which had kept him up the night before. As he set off in his car the next morning, the cough continued, and so he pulled over to the side of the road and prayed. He prayed for the Holy Spirit to alleviate his cough for the service, and then continued on his journey, still coughing. That was until he arrived at the church and put on his robes. It was at this moment that the cough completely stopped, and he went on to take the full service without interruption - something he credits to the Holy Spirit responding to his call for help.


Another story which springs to mind was an Evensong at St Mark’s Worsley, where the wrong prayer books were given out to the congregation, leading to Frank preaching a completely different service than the one being followed by the entire congregation.

Frank would encourage anyone who wants to do more for their church to consider becoming a Reader, taking on a role which he describes as a “bridge” between the congregation and the vicar. “Readers are giving out while the congregation is receiving” he says, “they are a bridge between the clergy and the congregation, a focal point of the church.”

Over the years Frank has witnessed packed-out services with standing room only, has played his part in ensuring that services go ahead even in the absence of an Incumbent, and has seen desolate people come to church and be welcomed into the congregation with open arms. “We’ve seen lives changed here”, he says.

Despite having retired as a Reader this year, make no mistake that Frank is still very much an active member of St Anne’s, although he now sits in the pews with his wife rather than leading the service from the front. “I’m still involved,” he says, “just not with the robes!”

If you are interested in finding out more about Reader ministry, head over to our Readers page.

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