The ministry of the Church is the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is entrusted to all the baptized, and ordered under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the unity and the mission of the Church.
The Catechism in the Prayer Book begins the section on “The Ministry” (p. 855) in this way:
Q. Who are the ministers of the Church?
A. The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.
Q. What is the ministry of the laity?
A. The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.
Most of the Church’s ministry is carried out by lay persons during the course of their daily life: in their prayers, homes, schools, work, relationships, and volunteer service in their communities. For the sake of the unity and mission of the local congregation, and the good order of the Church, a number of lay ministries within the congregation require local training and licensing by the Diocese of West Texas.
The clear expectation of The Episcopal Church Canons is that those licensed are to be confirmed communicants in good standing, though “in extraordinary circumstances, subject to guidelines established by the Bishop” a communicant in good standing may be licensed. (Title III. 4. 1(a)).
In the Diocese of West Texas, training for licensed lay ministries is entrusted to the local priest (or warden, in the absence of a priest), who then submits the names of those requesting licensing to the Bishop’s Office. Licenses are granted for a 3-year period, and are renewable.
Lay Eucharistic Minister (LEM)—Those who assist in the distribution of Communion during worship by administering the chalice.
Lay Eucharistic Visitor (LEV)—Those who take Communion to the homebound and the hospitalized immediately following a church’s celebration of the Eucharist.
Worship Leader—Those who officiate at public worship, limited to those liturgies, and portions of liturgies, that do not require an ordained person. They are not authorized to distributeCommunion (i.e., a quasi-“deacon’s mass”) under this license. (Worship Leaders were formerly known as “Lay Readers.)
Lectors—Those who read the appointed Scripture lessons and lead the Prayers of the People. Lectors no longer require licensing by the Diocese.
Other lay licenses provided for in TEC Canon 4, are not generally granted in West Texas, but may be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Bishop, in consultation with the individual’s priest. Special training for these licenses, as well as evidence of Christian maturity, will be expected. These ministries are: Pastoral Leader, Lay Preacher, Evangelist and Catechist.
God calls all Christians to the service of Christ and his Kingdom. The Holy Spirit has imparted gifts to all of us, and equips us for ministry in the Name of Christ; for the building up of the Church; and for the spread of the Kingdom. Very little of this ministry requires ordination and most of it does not require a license. If you are wondering what your spiritual gifts are, or how you might serve as an active lay member, please talk with your parish or mission priest, or a wise and discerning lay person.