In 1960 Neil and his wife Rita became regular members of the Christ Church, Eaton and on 11 May 1963 Neil was licensed in Norwich Cathedral to preach and lead services in any churches that required his service.
Speaking of this achievement, Neil said: “It is a real privilege but a responsibility to serve God in so many ways and I’m happy to do whatever needs doing.”
60 years on Neil still helps with taking services in a local sheltered housing complex and the midweek services in St Andrews Church. He said: “taking services is but a relatively small part of the role of an LLM.”
Neil also started the Millennium Male Voice Choir and runs the Eaton Summer Programme. This is an annual programme of events and lectures.
In 2020, Neil started the ‘Burial Ground Project’ at Eaton with St Andrews and over the last few years he has worked his way around the burial ground, cleaning and weeding 1,000 graves and tombs with Graham Bensley.
Now, as part of this project, he is starting again at the beginning with last year’s re-growth, but in addition he is gently cleaning every headstone and making a note of all the dedications of the last 2-300 years. With the help of a friend, he is composing a document which will record, in alphabetical order, all the details on each grave, so that anyone needing to identify the location of their loved one can access it more easily.
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher said: “Neil Rout has served as a Licensed Lay Minister (Reader) for 60 faithful years. This is an incredible achievement. Whilst Neil sees the purpose of his life being to serve God and his community, and will not want any fuss, this is a time when we can join in thankfulness together for the ministry entrusted to him. Many congratulations to Neil on this significant anniversary.”
The Revd Phil Rodd said: “It’s been great working with Neil these past years. As a Licenced Lay Minister, he’s been a wonderful support and a tremendous servant of St Andrew’s and of the wider community here in Eaton. At times he’s occupied the ‘big platform’, initiating very visible community-wide projects, while at others he’s simply quietly drawn alongside individuals, listening to them, drawing them in and enabling them both to find their place and to use their gifts. If only the Diocese could clone him!”
If you are interested in finding out more about Licensed Lay Ministry then click here.