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Commissioned Lay Ministers

A Commissioned Minister is given the Area Bishop’s commission in order to give support and authority to a person whose ministry a PCC wishes to recognise as a substantial contribution within the ministerial team, working with the parish priest. It is expected that the appropriate gifts for the ministry will already have been discerned and that the incumbent or priest-in-charge will train and supervise the Commissioned Minister.

Commissioned Ministers have authority to exercise their ministry only in the parish to which they are commissioned. Commissioned Ministers may be given job titles reflecting the nature of their work, for example Pastoral Assistant, Lay Minister, Youth Worker.

Commissioned Ministers may be given permission by the Area Bishop to distribute the sacrament of Holy Communion in church or to the sick and housebound. There are four other areas of ministry for which Commissioned Ministers are usually given permission by the Area Bishop, as requested by the PCC:

  • Leading public worship
  • Leading services of communion by extension
  • Preaching
  • Taking funerals

The basic training model is apprenticeship to the parish priest, in conjunction with other training courses. Commissioned Ministers should have a biennial extra-parochial review of their ministry arranged by the Area Adviser for Ministry or Parish Ministry Development Adviser.

Recruitment and Preparation

  1. Requests for someone to be made a Commissioned Minister should be made to the Area Bishop with a copy to the Area Ministry Development Adviser or Parish Ministry Development Adviser. The Adviser will check that the PCC has requested such a commission and has specified in what areas of ministry specific permissions from the bishop are sought.
  2. It is recognised that a period of time is necessary for discernment both of ministry potential and of gifts in a commissioned minister. During this time the Commissioned Minister will exercise certain ministries with the authority and permission of the Area Bishop.
  3. Commissioned Ministers may undertake a three-year period of ‘Vocational Journey’ starting from the date of the commission.
  4. At the end of this period an assessment will be made by the parish and the Area Adviser for Ministry or Parish Ministry Development Adviser as to the likely shape the person’s ministry is to take in the medium term and the further training that is necessary for this ministry to be exercised well.
  5. The period of ‘Vocational Journey’ may, if appropriate, be extended for a further three years.
  6. A range of training opportunities will be available to provide competencies that need to be developed. The direction of development will be indicated by their particular ministerial strengths.
  7. Commissioned Ministers will normally be part of a parish ministry team. All members of such a team will be accountable to the incumbent or priest-in-charge who, in turn, will be responsible for ensuring careful supervision of the various ministries.

Leading Public Worship

Canon B 11 Of Morning and Evening Prayer in Parish Churches permits a bishop to authorise suitable lay persons to lead Morning and Evening prayer.

Public Worship, including Communion by Extension

Explicit permission from the Area Bishop will be necessary for the use of this rite, relating to specific pastoral circumstances.

Preaching and Teaching

  1. Canon B 18 Of Sermons in Parish Churches permits the minister having the cure of souls to invite another person to preach with the permission of the bishop of the diocese given either in relation to the particular occasion or in accordance with diocesan directions.
  2. Where preaching and teaching is an area of potential development of ministry in a Commissioned Minister the ‘Vocational Journey’ review will consider what further training and authorisation for the person’s ministry is appropriate. Greater theological literacy is desirable.

Taking Funerals

  1. A funeral involves skilled pastoral ministry with the mourners and a thoughtful address with both clear gospel content drawn from the scriptures and thoughtful memory of the deceased.
  2. For Commissioned Ministers the period of ‘Vocational Journey’ gives the opportunity for the appropriateness of funeral ministry to be discerned.
  3. Those Commissioned Ministers who take funerals will do so under careful supervision of their incumbent, and there will be regular discussion in the parish ministry team of good practice in bereavement and funeral ministry.

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