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.

1121 - 1970

The church building has existed for nearly 900 years, having started as a chapel at the gates of Reading Abbey in 1121. Due to its position next to Reading Abbey, trade in the area was stimulated, and a large market sprung up around the church. One road leading to the church became known as Market Place, and Market Place Square now stands directly next to the church.

The current tower was built in 1458, and then restored in 1882. During the restoration, the  tower was found to contain several fragments of Norman work, suggesting that the 1458  tower had been partly built with some materials from the first tower during the Norman era. The tower currently houses 12 bells, making St. Laurence the only 12 bell church in Reading. Whilst the bells aren’t rung for services, they’re used by local bell ringers for regular practices and competitions.

During the 16th century Reformation, St. Laurence was drastically altered. Stain glass windows were removed in 1549, just 2 years after the removal and destruction of the images and whitewashing of the walls to hide the murals. All altars, except the High Altar and St. John’s Altar, were removed and sold.  

In February 1943, bombs were dropped in the town centre. 41 people lost their lives and a plaque commemorating this event is fixed to the wall of  Blandy and Blandy, the solicitors next to the church. Shrapnel  damage to St. Laurence’s wall can still be seen today, and part of the dislodged west window now lies in the graveyard. Both planes were brought down as they returned to  Germany, leading to the complete loss of life of all on board.

1970 - 2001

During the 1970s, the congregation of St. Laurence saw a serious decline, causing the  parish to be merged with that of Saint Mary's (Reading Minster). As numbers continued to fall, the Diocese gave St. Laurence a new role. The Vicar, Chris Russell, was given the mandate to see young people come to faith and to build new forms of church with them.

2001 - 2015

Chris and his wife, Belinda, moved with a small team to Reading in 2001.  Chris was inducted that Easter. The team focused on engaging with “un-churched” young people. One key element of creating space for our mission was the reordering of the building’s interior. During the reordering, we met at All Saints Parish Hall and St Mary’s (Reading Minster).  The reordering was completed in November 2004 and the church reopened for use.

Our St. Laurence’s staff team and church member volunteers run youth groups, activities, schools work, and youth weekends away (including trips to Soul Survivor and Momentum).  We have a range of small groups (which include young adults who transition from youth into adulthood) meeting in homes across Reading. We have social get togethers, seasonal gatherings and services (Holy Week and Christmas) and worship spaces. The church family also gathers annually for a weekend away.

In July 2013, Chris was seconded to Lambeth Palace for 2 days a week to become the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Advisor on Evangelism and Witness whilst continuing in his duties at St Laurence.




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.

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


The Role

(A full Job Description & Person Specification are available)

Background to the Post


The time has come in the life of the present incarnation of the body of Christ at St Laurence to invite another The time has come in the life of St Laurence to invite another ordained member to join us during an exciting season to put her/ his shoulder to the wheel. 16 years into the adventure of “living to see young people come to faith and building new forms of church with them”, the church has been through a thorough review process as we continue to explore our calling. We are now at a vital stage of change and development and there is a need for an ordained Anglican to come and join the team in service.


The post-holder will work with and in support of the Vicar, Chris, in holding responsibility before God

for the community; its life, its witness and its effectiveness, and alongside the newly formed

Leadership Team, in setting the direction and fruitfulness of the church. The past 18 months has been

a particular time of change at St Laurence, during which there has been a discernment by the whole

church of four key priorities which we have committed to. These will be lived out across every aspect

of church life. These 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


Job Purpose/Summary

There are five key aspects to this post.


1. To shape, inform, instruct and release the community in its life before the face of God


2. To care for the people of God at St Laurence


3. To enable the best working of the St Laurence staff team


4. To work with the Leadership Team to see the implementation of the four priorities across the life of the church


5. To enable St Laurence to extends its existing reach and take its place within a wider context.


Description of the St. Laurence Parish


Map of where St Laurence is in Reading.,+Reading/@51.4563856,-0.9715467,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x48769b17d64fdf51:0xa5d4ad51eeb597e8!8m2!3d51.4563856!4d-0.969358


Map of the Rectory which will be made available for the post-holder.,+Reading+RG31+6DR/@51.4694866,-1.032252,15.94z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x48769a32a3647837:0x512c827e14569853!8m2!3d51.4694178!4d-1.0288997

Church House, 270 Kentwood Hill, Tilehurst, Reading, RG31 6DR is a 4 bedroom detached house with a garden, drive and garage.


Transport links:

Reading is a very well-connected town. Reading Station has connections across the uk, we have Railair to Heathrow and our local bus service is excellent. The church congregation have free parking on Sundays in the centre at an underground car park just 3 minutes walk from the church building. Midweek, parking is available for key staff (this will include the Associate Vicar) at Reading Minster, just 7 minutes walk from St. Laurence.


Social Geography:,_Berkshire  for general information about Reading. for things to do if you have some spare time whilst visiting Reading.

In case you were wondering if it was a good place to live, Berkshire was apparently the 8th most prosperous region in 2015. However, we do have considerable deprivation, too, as shown in the Indices of Multiple Deprivation.


Schools & Colleges:

For information about toddler groups, nurseries and childcare possibilities locally, please ask (there’s great stuff around here!). has information about primary and secondary state schools.

Church of England employees can receive a grant for the Anglican The Abbey School (independent day school for girls aged 3-18).  In the past there has also been a grant for children of St Laurence employees to attend St Joseph’s College (an independent day school for boys and girls aged 3–18) - this would need to be approached on an individual case by case basis.

Reading University:

Reading College:


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.