A lay reader (in some jurisdictions simply Reader) is a layperson authorized by a bishop of the Anglican Church to read some parts of a service of worship. They are members of the congregation called to preach or lead services, but not called to full-time ministry.
Anglican lay readers are licensed by the bishop to a particular parish or to the diocese at large. In the former case, in some areas, their tenure expires with the resignation of the parish priest. In the Anglican tradition, the role of licensed lay readers, whose prominence varies by region, is similar to that of a non-conformist lay preacher, and can involve:
- Conducting Mattins, Evensong, and Compline
- Reciting the Litany
- Publishing banns of marriage
- Preaching, teaching, and assisting in pastoral care
- Conducting funerals (this often requires additional specific permission from the diocesan bishop, and the agreement of the family of the deceased)
- Distributing (though not celebrating) Holy Communion.
Although in many parishes, these duties can be performed by any reasonably competent lay person who has been properly instructed, the key to the Reader's license is that he or she is permitted to do them in the absence of a priest. Licensed Readers are entitled to wear a blue tippet with choir dress.
The first female lay readers were licensed during the First World War due to the shortage of men. They existed in 22 Dioceses in England and 1 diocese in Canada. The first group were called "Bishop's Messengers". There was then a gap until 1969 until more female lay readers were appointed.
In the Church of England, the office used to be known simply as Reader. Following a working party report to General Synod in 2009 most dioceses have adopted the title Licensed Lay Minister (Reader), or LLM (Reader). Their theological training enables them to preach, teach, and lead worship, and they are also able to assist in pastoral, evangelistic and liturgical work.
The office of Lay Reader has existed in its present form since 1866, and there are now around ten thousand lay readers in the Church of England.
For the purposes of carrying out the practical aspects of their training for ordination, students studying for the ordained ministry may be licensed as Student Readers. In some provinces of the Anglican Communion, such as the Church of Ireland, a Student Reader's license permits them to serve in any diocese rather than being bound (as in the case of a Lay Reader) to the diocese of their licensing bishop.
See also 
- Reader (liturgy)
- Methodist local preacher (United Kingdom & Australia)
- Lay speaker (United States)
- "Church of England Readers - Central Readers' Council". Church of England Readers. 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- Kuhrt, Gordon W. (2001). Ministry Issues for the Church of England: Mapping the Trends. Church House Publishing. p. 134. ISBN 0-7151-8122-X. Retrieved 2008-07-16.