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Local Authorisation for Eucharistic Ministers – Guidelines for Good Practice

Communion Vessels

From Easter 2017, the Bishop is making authorisation of Eucharistic Ministers a matter for the incumbent, in consultation with the PCC. This document sets out some basic guidelines to encourage good practice, and coherence across the diocese. 

The Bishop's letter setting out this change of policy can be downloaded here.
A version of this file, as emailed out to all clergy, with additional appendices, can be downloaded here.

Definition

The term Eucharistic Ministers includes those who assist in the distribution of Holy Communion at the Eucharist, and those who may take Holy Communion using previously consecrated elements to the sick, housebound, or residential care homes.

This local authorisation specifically excludes permission for Holy Communion by Extension whether for a Sunday or weekday celebration by a congregation not having a priest available. Permission for Holy Communion by Extension is governed by a House of Bishops’ Code of Practice, and must be requested separately from the Bishop. It is a permission that is given to a parish for a specific situation, and not an authorisation of a person.

Selection

Normally, the primary responsibility for selecting and supporting, Eucharistic Ministers lies with the parish priest. Where there is a clergy team, or wider ministry team, the selection of potential ministers should be discussed confidentially within the team. Where there is no team, the incumbent will ideally have some wise churchwardens or other people who know the parish / benefice well.

Each person who is suggested for this ministry should have the opportunity to explore it with the parish priest (and others as appropriate) before deciding whether they wish their name to go forward. Once the incumbent, others who have been consulted, and the person themselves are agreed that this is appropriate, then the names of those who are proposed should go before the PCC for their consent.

The PCC should be able to have a confidential discussion of the appropriateness of the person or people concerned without them being present. It will be sufficient that the minute of the meeting simply states the decision to authorise the person or people.

If the role is confined (as it may be for those in full-time employment) to assisting in the distribution of the sacrament during public worship, no DBS check will be needed. If, however, it is envisaged that the minister will also take Holy Communion to the sick, then they will need to complete the appropriate safeguarding processes with the parish representative. As for all safeguarding applications, they will need to apply through the Parish for the appropriate DBS checks to be made. They should not receive authorisation in the parish until this process has been properly completed. (NB Please contact the Diocesan DBS Administrator on 01905 732811 for more help or look at the Safeguarding pages of the Diocesan website for more details regarding safer recruitment policies and guidance.)

Training

Training for Eucharistic Ministers has always happened at the parish, benefice or (occasionally) deanery level. It will continue to do so, but if there is sufficient demand for support, the Ministry and Discipleship Team can organise occasional training evenings, with additional reflective input. The guidelines in Appendix A of the downloadable version of this file are intended to act as a practical checklist for developing the content of local training.

Training for taking Holy Communion to the sick and housebound, and in care homes.

Apart from initial training for those who are assisting during public worship, additional training for those who are taking the Sacrament to the sick will be needed. It is recommended that this training follows an apprenticeship model, and happens once a newly authorised Eucharistic Minister is accustomed to distributing the Sacrament at public worship. It is important to remember that no-one should do this before the appropriate safeguarding process has been carried out in the parish, and DBS checks completed. In addition, there would be an expectation that Eucharistic Ministers attend diocesan safeguarding training within the first 12 months of receiving authorisation. The Diocesan DBS Administrator can be contacted for more information about the training and booking onto it. There are additional guidelines in the downloadable version of this document.

Authorisation

Once the PCC has agreed the incumbent’s nomination of new Eucharistic Ministers (and any appropriate safeguarding processes have been followed through to completion), then the parish priest can proceed to authorise them.

Normally authorisation should happen with prayer at a principal Sunday service in the benefice or parish where the ministry will be carried out. A simple liturgical form for authorisation, and a template for a parish certificate of authorisation are provided here, in these versions.

Review

As part of the authorisation the incumbent and Eucharistic minister will agree a pattern of review. It is strongly recommended that parishes continue the current practice of authorising the ministry for a five-year period with a full review at the five-year mark of whether both parties wish for a further period of authorisation.

Ongoing support

Parishes are strongly encouraged to bring together all those who participate in leading parts of the church’s public worship, at least once a year, for an evening that might include mutual prayer, thanksgiving and an opportunity for reflection on the worship of the church. This can sometimes feed very helpfully into further reflection by the ministry team and others. Stewards / welcomers, readers, intercessors and Eucharistic Ministers are obvious people to bring together for this reflection.

Deanery celebrations

Deanery celebrations of ministry, which have typically happened annually, should still be occasions of affirmation, celebration, mutual support and developing a sense of participation in the wider mission and mission of the church in the locality. While it will no longer be necessary for Rural or Area Deans to sign people’s authorisations, this can be an opportunity to focus the celebration more on relationships and collaboration in ministry, and remove a burden of administrative bureaucracy.