This page sets out for ministers of Holy Communion the policies they may need to refer to in special cases. They concern who may receive Communion, the commissioning of lay assistants, and gaining permission to reserve the Sacrament and to conduct a service of Communion by extension.
Who may receive communion
Holy Communion before Confirmation: admission of baptised persons
- Since ‘communion before confirmation’ is a departure from our inherited norm it requires special permission. The agreement of the Area Bishop is required before a parish introduces the practice of admitting baptized persons to communion before confirmation.
- An application to the Area Bishop for an approved Parish Policy for the ‘Admission of baptized persons to Holy Communion before confirmation’ (download the form from the resources block at the bottom of this page) must include the following elements:
- evidence that both the incumbent and the Parochial Church Council support the application.
- evidence that the parish policy is clear and understood within the parish.
- details of the Christian nurture and education programme for the parish for both children and adults.
- evidence that the importance of Confirmation is emphasized within the programme of nurture.
- that Baptism must always precede admission to Holy Communion.
- that there is a proper discussion between the parish priest, the parents and other catechists about the right time for admission of a child to Holy Communion, and that they share in a continuing education of the child in the significance of Holy Communion. Persons (including children) with learning difficulties should not be barred, but rather given an opportunity to experience the sacramental signs of God’s love.
- before a child is first brought to Holy Communion the significance of the occasion should be explained to him/her and proper preparation given for the reception of the sacrament.
- ‘First Communion’ should be marked in some way appropriate to the life of the parish. It is often helpful for the Bishop to admit children to communion at a service of confirmation, where the two practices can be linked.
- liturgical resources for the admission of children to Holy Communion are available from the Area Bishop’s office.
- a register of every person admitted to Holy Communion before Confirmation should be kept, and each person so admitted should be given a certificate by the Area Bishop.
- the priest must consult with the Area Bishop about how much of the liturgy communicant children should attend. The Ministry of the Word may be in separate groups (e.g. Sunday School), but the Ministry of the Sacrament should be for the whole church together.
- The Christian nurture and education programme of the parish, which will form part of the application to the Area Bishop, must be monitored by someone in the Episcopal Area, possibly the Area Director of Training and Development. Resources for such programmes are kept by the Diocesan Children’s Adviser at London Diocesan House for the use of parishes.
- It is impossible to force the policy of one parish on to another, and therefore there may be difficulties when families move from one parish to another. It should be made clear that admission to Holy Communion before confirmation is “for this parish only”. However, unconfirmed communicant people who move to another parish will be commended to their new incumbent as communicant members of the church.
- Since the bishop is the principal minister of initiation, it is important for the bishop regularly to be the minister of Holy Baptism, and particularly at services where candidates will be both baptized and confirmed.
Reception of Communicants of Other Churches
Those episcopally confirmed in another Christian Church can formally be received into full membership of the Church of England by the Area Bishop, or by the Incumbent acting in the Bishop’s name. After due preparation, the reception should take place when the Bishop is visiting the parish for a Confirmation or other service. Details of the reception should be recorded in the register of Confirmations, and signed or countersigned by the Bishop. Those who are not episcopally confirmed in another Christian Church should be presented for confirmation by the Bishop in the normal way. The order for reception should follow that of Common Worship Initiation services pp.103ff. or 174ff.
No one may be excommunicated (that is refused the sacrament of Holy Communion) without reference to the Diocesan Bishop. (See Canon B16.)
Commissioning lay assistants to administer communion
Lay Assistants at Holy Communion
Area Bishops will authorise lay people to assist in the administration of Holy Communion under the following conditions:
- Proposed Lay Assistants should be communicants in good standing, nominated by the Incumbent and approved by the PCC.
- The Parish priest should give Lay Assistants careful instruction as to how the distribution should be made, the words used and particular customs of the congregation.
- Lay Assistants should be encouraged to prepare themselves for this ministry by careful preparation and prayer.
- The people or person should be given the permission publicly by the Bishop or parish priest at the main Eucharist on a Sunday or Festival.
- The number of people given such permission will differ from parish to parish according to the number of communicants and the frequency of use.
- Lay Assistants need not be robed: this should depend on local custom, though proper regard should be had to the special nature of Holy Communion. It is acceptable for Lay Assistants to come up from the congregation at the time of Holy Communion.
- Permission applies to the distribution of either the consecrated Bread or Wine, as the celebrant shall decide.
- Permission will normally be for a period of three years, at which time the permission will be reviewed by the incumbent and PCC with a recommendation to the Bishop.
- The Bishop will issues two certificates: one should be presented to the Lay Assistants in the presence of the congregation and the other kept in the church safe along with other records.
- Permission is for the Lay Assistant’s parish and no other.
- The Bishop may revoke the permission at any time.
- If a Lay Assistant leaves the parish or the Area Bishop revokes the permission, the certificate held by the Assistant should be returned to the Bishop and the copy in the church safe should be destroyed.
An Order of Commissioning Lay Assistants at Holy Communion
After the Sermon
Presentation of the Candidates:
Priest: Dear Friends in Christ, N, N and N are to be entrusted with administering Holy Communion at the Eucharist.
N …, in this ministry, you must be examples of Christian living in faith and conduct; you must strive to grow in holiness through this sacrament of unity and love. Remember that, though many, we are one body because we share the one bread and the one cup.
As ministers of Holy Communion, be therefore especially observant of the Lord’s command to love your neighbour. For when he gave his body as food to his disciples, he said to them, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Priest: Are you resolved to undertake faithfully the office of administration of Holy Communion to your brothers and sisters, and to serve to build up the Church?
Assistant being commissioned: I am.
Priest: Are you resolved to administer the Holy Communion with the utmost care and reverence?
Assistant being commissioned: I am.
Priest: Dear friends in Christ, let us pray with confidence to the Father; let us ask him to bestow his blessing on N, N, and N, chosen to be Lay Assistants at Holy Communion.
Prayer of Blessing
Gracious Lord, you nourish us with the Body and Blood of your Son,that we might have eternal life.
Bless our brothers/sisters who have been chosen to give the bread of heaven
and the cup of salvation to your faithful people.
May the holy mysteries they distribute
Lead them to the joys of eternal life.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Each candidate then receives the Bishop’s letter of Authority giving him/her permission to officiate as a Lay Assistant at Holy Communion.
The Intercessions follow.
Reservation of the Sacrament and Communion by Extension
Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament
The written permission of the Area Bishop is required to reserve the Sacrament. Applications to the Bishop should be accompanied by (a) a Resolution of the PCC approving the application, (b) a statement giving reasons for the application, including the number of communions at home and/or in hospital during the past twelve months.
The Bishop must also give his written approval for the construction of the safe and its proposed position in church, for which a faculty is also required. The application for a faculty should be made in the usual way. The Bishop’s letter of approval is sent to the Chancellor with the faculty application.
The Sacrament should be reserved in a ciborium or other suitable vessel, and should be changed frequently. The Parish Priest is responsible for the security of the Sacrament, and should have the key to the place of reservation in his or her safekeeping. It is customary to mark the place of reservation with a white light.
Before any expected vacancy the Parish Priest should consult the Area Bishop, who will make the necessary arrangements for the care of the Sacrament.
Public Worship with Communion by Extension
If a priest is unavailable to conduct a service of Holy Communion, it is possible for an authorised person to conduct a service, with appropriate permission.
‘Public Worship with Communion by Extension’ contains the rite to be used and Guidelines for its use by the House of Bishops.
- Explicit permission must be obtained from the Bishop for the use of this rite. This permission will relate to specific pastoral circumstances (see the House of Bishops Guidelines pages 32-33).
- In parishes or churches in which Public Worship with Communion by Extension is authorised a celebration of Holy Communion must take place regularly in each church. Public Worship with Communion by Extension should normally take place on Sundays and Holy Days and only exceptionally on other occasions.
- The service must be conducted by a person specifically authorised by the Bishop. This may be a deacon, Reader, Accredited Lay Worker, or other lay person who has received appropriate training. Those who have the Bishop’s permission to assist in administering Holy Communion may assist in administering Holy Communion.
- A deacon, Reader or Accredited Lay Worker must wear appropriate vesture.
- The consecrated elements of Holy Communion must be treated in a seemly and dignified manner and the rubrics in the rite provided must be observed.
- Proper provision must be made for the consecrated bread and wine to be brought from the celebration of Holy Communion in a seemly and dignified manner. They should be placed on the Holy Table and covered with a clean white cloth.
- Proper care should be taken to ensure, as far as possible, that the consecrated elements are sufficient for the number of communicants. If the bread and wine prove insufficient for the number of communicants there can be no supplementary consecration in the course of this service.
- Any remaining consecrated elements should be consumed by the officiant and assistants in a seemly and dignified manner.
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