Write, if you have any
answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or
would like to add to the answers below.
I recently visited
another diocese on holiday. At the Sunday eucharist, I was
surprised to observe that the Gospel was read by a lay person. This
same person prepared the altar at the offertory, assisted at the
distribution, administering individual blessings, and then
performed the ablutions. I was later informed that he was not in
holy orders, but was a "lay deacon". Am I mistaken in feeling that
this is a contradiction in terms? Can anybody please enlighten me
on this practice? Is it widespread, and what is its
The answer is on page 158 of
the main Common Worship volume: "the deacon's liturgical
ministry provides an appropriate model for the ministry of an
assisting priest, a Reader, or another episcopally authorized
minister in a leadership ministry that complements that of the
My experience of praying the
eucharist is certainly quite different when a competent liturgical
deacon frees me to preside. Perhaps, unknown to the questioner,
creatively interdependent lay and ordained roles are features of
that parish all week, and are simply being made visible in this way
at the eucharist on Sunday.
All of the concerns raised
are answered in the notes and rubrics of the communion services in
the Common Worship service book. The notes on pages 158-59
refer to a variety of traditions, but make it clear that only those
actions annotated in the rubrics as "the President . . ." must
beperformed bya priest, and even those elements of the Gathering
and Service of the Word may be led by a lay person in the absence
of a priest.
Note 21, on page 334, states
explicitly that a lay person authorised to distribute communion may
pray for non-communicants.
(The Revd) Malcolm
The questioner might find it
helpful to think in terms of function, not status. In our parish in
Poole (Salisbury diocese), six of us are privileged to do this
work. Two of us are Readers (known as LLMs in Salisbury); so we do
other things, too: preaching, teaching, leading worship, home
We do the job as described,
except that we do not give blessings to non-communicants; that is
the clergy's privilege and responsibility. But we do have the
awesome privilege at our main Sunday service of helping in the
fraction. This is because we do not use individual wafers, but
large ones that are each broken into six pieces, so everyone has a
piece of wafer consecrated and then broken. We have two teams
administering, and, if no other clergy are present, then the lay
deacon administers the consecrated bread for the second team. We
also lead the acclamations, if any, in the Eucharistic Prayer, and
the dismissal. We do each get prayed for, before reading the
Gospel, that we may do it worthily.
We had a stipendiary deacon
four years ago, but he served his title, and left last summer for a
parish of his own. We don't get a new one till next year.
I have been a Reader for
more than 15 years, and have served in five parishes in three
dioceses. In each parish, my priest encouraged me to learn and then
exercise the deacon's ministry as far as is permitted by my
This has included leading
the Ministry of the Word, apart from giving the absolution, and
reading the Gospel, preaching, and setting and clearing the altar
for and after the eucharist. I have also administered the chalice,
and on one occasion a second paten at a very large service. Where
there is another Reader, we carry out these duties in our turn.
We also have an ALM worship
leader (accredited lay minister), who carries out the deacon's
duties apart from setting and clearing the altar, by her own
choice. I have also acted as Bishop's chaplain at two confirmation
services, with different bishops, and presented my parish's
candidates at a third service.
In my 15 years, I have never
served in a church that included a deacon in the ministry team.
Anne King (Reader of St
Mary the Virgin, Willesborough)
Willesborough, Ashford, Kent
Without the "lay deacon"
appellation, I'm on our readers' rota, so read the Gospel at the
first holy communion service of the month. As sacristan, I assist
the Vicar in preparing the altar at the offertory, and with the
ablutions at the close. As one of our lay ministers of communion, I
assist at the distribution of the elements, and often pray with or
for individuals who are not confirmed and do not receive
Willing volunteers are
always welcome to join our readers' rota. The work of the
sacristan, appointed jointly by the Vicar and PCC, is essential for
the smooth running of holy communion services. Our lay ministers of
communion, licensed by our Area Bishop, deem it an honour to be
able to minister in this way. If the requirement for any of these
roles were being in holy orders, I am not sure we would have many
volunteers at all; either that, or the church would be staffed by
several members of the clergy (which the diocese wouldn't be able
to afford), or a Vicar run ragged doing everything.
(Sacristan/Verger of St Paul's, Clacton-on-Sea)
It has been the custom in
some C of E churches, since the 19th century, for a layman,
sometimes a parish clerk or Reader, to wear the vestment of a
subdeacon (an order suppressed in the C of E at the Reformation)
while acting as the epistoler, and fulfilling certain other
liturgical functions, at a sung celebration of the eucharist.
Reading or singing of the
Gospel has, however, normally been reserved to a person in deacon's
orders, following the mainstream tradition of the Catholic
Though our canon law now
allows a lay person to read or sing the Gospel at holy communion,
for him or her to do so does obscure the fact that the celebrant,
or any other priest who is present, has also been ordained as a
deacon, and that this character is indelible. I am sure many
priests - despite the current emphasis on status, and ordination as
a career path - are happy to be reminded by this that their
ministry should remain true to the deacon's vocation of humble
It is commonly known
that, as things now are, the British monarch can not be a Roman
Catholic; but what if a future monarch should be a Methodist,
Baptist, Orthodox, or, for that matter, a Muslim or
atheist? G. S.
I wonder if anyone
has come up with a suitable form of address, the equivalent of
"Father", which could be used when speaking to or of a lady priest.
The titles "Mother" and "Sister" clearly have other connota-tions,
and yet using just the lady's Christian name could seem an
inadequate acknowledgement of her
ministry. A. M.
"As the bishop said
to the actress." Which bishop? Which
actress? J. C.
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