Parish Profile



living to see young people come to faith and

building new forms of church with them



St. Laurence is an Anglican church in Reading with a particular vision for young people.


About Reading ...

Reading is the borough town of Berkshire, with a population of c.233,000 people (Trivia alert: it’s the largest UK settlement without city status - a sore point for some locals!) with a fairly mixed demographic. We have 2 MPs, both Conservative and a unitary authority with a Labour administration. There is a lot you might find interesting, but here are some random titbits of information: Jane Austen went to school here, Parliament was held in the Abbey in 1453, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned at Reading Gaol in 1895-97 and (!) Ricky Gervais and Kate Middleton were born (not at the same time) in Reading.





St. Laurence is an Anglican church in Reading with a particular vision for young people. We meet in a wonderfully re-ordered twelfth century church building, and seek to be a community which lives out the good news of the Kingdom with and among young people of the town.


Our mission is that we are living to see young people come to faith and we are building new forms of church with them.


2015 - 2017

In June 2015, Chris Russell set out our intention as a community to tirelessly pursue the embodied concept of ‘with’.  As part of this, we embarked on an 18 month Review process, facilitated by Rev Neil Warwick (Vicar of St. Nicolas & Asst. Area Dean). One very visible way the Review impacted our church life was the amalgamation of our 2 services (3:30pm & 6pm) into one ‘Service 0’. From October 2015 we began meeting all together at 2pm.


As a further result of the review process, there has been a discernment by the whole church of four key priorities which we have committed to. A new Leadership Team has tasked individuals as Priority Leads, heading up Collectives within each priority area. The relationship between these emerging structures and the PCC, as well as the involvement of church member volunteers in the Collectives, has begun to develop since over Spring 2017.


The four priorities are:

  1. We commit to being the inclusive family of Jesus Christ where lives are transformed by love

  2. We commit to create spaces where people meet Jesus Christ and thrive as disciples

  3. We commit to love and serve young people in Reading and with them to love and serve others

  4. We commit to share what we learn so that the wider church may be effective in mission with young people

Who we are

We currently have approximately 95 adults, 25 young people and 40 children (aged 2-12) regularly attend our Sunday gathering.

During the week, our staff team and dedicated volunteer church members interact with 60-70 young people through activities and clubs. We are incredibly blessed to have a volunteer base of c.60 adults who are involved in face to face youth work, which we realise is miraculous and fairly unusual.


Introducing …

The staff team are a dedicated bunch of multi-talented people. Here’s bit about the people you would be working alongside on a weekly basis in the church office.


Vicar - Rev. Canon Chris Russell

Chris is the Vicar at St Laurence and has been here since 2001 working to the mandate of building a multi-generational community, with a particular mission amongst young people. Chris trained for the Ordained Ministry at Ridley Hall during which he also did an M Phil in Dogmatic Theology at Cambridge University. He was ordained in 1996 and later made a Canon of Christchurch Cathedral Oxford in 2013.  Alongside his role as Vicar of St Laurence, he also works part-time as the Archbishop’s Advisor for Evangelism & Witness at Lambeth Palace on Wednesdays & Thursdays. He is married to the beautiful Belinda and has three lovely girls; Hope, Jessie & Dora.

Associate Vicar - Rev Chris Jones


Youthwork Director -  Chris West

Westy, as he is better known, completed a Youth & Community Work and Applied Theology Degree from the Centre for Youth Ministry Oxford in 2007 and took on the role as YWD that same year. Westy has oversight of all the youth work we undertake as a community. He is married to the lovely Gem - one of the ‘original’ team who moved to Reading with the Russells in 2001 - and they have a charmingly cheeky daughter, Phoebe. When Westy isn’t working, he can be found in his workshop making amazing things with wooden pallets.

Lead Youthworker - Lois Archer

Lois joined the staff team in July 2016 and is on a fixed term contract until August 2017 (as she’ll then be studying full-time to become a midwife). She has been coming to the church for 6 years, initially as a young person, and has been key in shaping young people's involvement in worship as well as leading on particular activities with young people.

Lead Children’s Worker - Connor Heath

Connor is the newest member of the team, having joined in April 2017 although has been part of the community since 2008. He has ‘grown up’ in the church, joining us on our 2009 Uganda Mission. He brings huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm to our children’s work and is also a Lead Youth Worker for a church in Twyford.

Youth Counsellor -  Zanelle Brackin

Zanelle is a qualified counsellor who offers specialist support to our young people as well as other clients elsewhere on a contract basis. She’s been part of the team since 2015 and is a committed member of the worshipping community at The Globe, Reading where she’s been for 2 years. She is married to Vaundel.

Vicar’s PA & Office Manager - Claire Brown

Claire is the Office Manager & Chris’ PA at St Laurence and has been on staff since 2013. She provides administrative & advisory support to Chris and enables the smooth running of the office with specific responsibilities for Service Administration, Events & HR. She also oversees the Financial Administration. Previously she worked in various administrative and fundraising management roles within other churches and the charity sector. Claire qualified as an Occupational Therapist at Brunel University in 2012 but decided to take on her role at St Laurence instead of pursuing this as a career. Claire is married to Ben, the church Treasurer and together they have been part of the church community since 2009. They have 2 children, Noveah and Gibson.

Finance Administrator - John Sykes

John is the Finance Administrator at St Laurence and has responsibility for the day-to-day management of the church finances and the reconciliation of all income and expenditure. He joined the staff team in 2015 on a 1 day a week basis. His previous work includes teaching English, furniture design, tree surgery, picking asparagus, lobster fishing & operating heavy machinery. He is married to the lovely Amy, our Safeguarding Officer, and is Dad to Jai, Herbie, Hettie & Samuel.


Leadership Team:  Chris & Belinda Russell, Lee & Nett Smith, Juliette Ward, Ben Blackledge & Chris West

PCC: We currently have 12 members of the PCC and 2 Churchwardens. On a number of occasions we have also had working groups or subgroups, tasked with a specific topic (i.e. Phase 2 of the Reordering), which report back to the full PCC.


Priority Leads

Lee & Nett Smith - Creating Spaces

Juliette Ward - Inclusive Family

Temporarily held by Chris Russell - Love & serve young people in Reading

Ben Blackledge - Sharing Learning


Other Churches Locally:

The nearest Anglican churches to us are Reading Minster (0.3 miles), Greyfriars (0.3 miles), St Giles (0.5 miles) and the Catholic church of St James & St William of York  is just 0.2 miles behind us.

There are 2 main networks of churches in Reading - Reading Christian Network and Churches Together Reading.


The Worshipping Community of St. Laurence

St. Laurence is a footprint parish within the Diocese of Oxford.

Our churchyard is behind the church building, with public access and a main thoroughfare through to the Forbury Gardens.

We worship together on a Sunday at 2pm, with our young people and some adults meeting for Sandwich Club just beforehand at 12:30pm. Refreshments are shared all together straight after the service. We usually share communion on a fortnightly basis. Easter Weekend is our busiest time of year (see our flyer here), and we usually have baptisms during our Easter Sunday Celebration. At Christmas we have a full array of gatherings (see the 2016 flyer here).

Occasional Offices - we usually have a small number of baptisms, weddings & funerals throughout the year.

Youth and Children’s Activities: Sunday Sandwich Club (12:30-2pm), Small Groups (Mondays, 4:30-5:45pm) Monday Club (6:15-7:30pm), Monday Night Extra (7:30-8:30pm), Prospect School Lunch Club (Tuesdays), Highdown School Lunch Club (Wednesdays), Boys Group (Thursday 4:30-6pm). Also, fortnightly, we have Worship Workshop on a Friday (7-8:30pm).  Mentoring by church member volunteers and staff occurs ad hoc throughout the month. In Term Time, Homework Club runs every Tuesday (4-6pm) and in the run up to exam periods this runs alongside the Revision Support Club.

During school holidays, we run activities (cinema, go-karting, laser quest, faith-building activities, hosted meals in church member family households) and we run The Noise, weekends away (2 per year) and a trip to Soul Survivor.

Giving & Money:  a set of our audited accounts and details of organisations we have given to can be made available by contacting the Treasurer, Ben Brown:  

Parochial Church Council (PCC): The PCC usually meets on 6 occasions per year.  In recent years there have also been some extraordinary meetings when an issue arises which needs addressing prior to the next meeting. The Vicar, 2 churchwardens, Secretary, Treasurer and 7 elected lay members currently includes a full complement of 12 individuals.

The Standing Committee: This occurs approximately 3-4 times a year and is between the Vicar, churchwardens and Treasurer.  It meets between meetings of the PCC and on other occasions as needed.

Local Trusts: St Laurence Church Lands Trust (Ecclesiastical, Relief in Need).

Deanery Perspective: The Area Dean for Reading is the Revd Stephen Pullin. For more information about Reading Deanery, please click here.

Diocesan Perspective: St. Laurence sits within the Reading Episcopal area, which is part of the Oxford Diocese. The Oxford Diocese covers c.2,200 square miles (similar to Thames Valley Police) and has 815 churches within it.  The Bishop of Reading is the Rt. Revd Andrew Proud, and our Archdeacon of Berkshire is the Venerable Olivia Graham. For more information about the Reading Area Team, please follow this link.