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Authorised Lay Ministry (ALM)

ALM authorisation ceremony 2013

The context

In the Diocese of Worcester we seek to be a church – a Kingdom people – not only for those who already belong, but also for those who are not or not yet our members. We believe that a shared ministry of ordained and lay people develops a healthy Church and a world-facing discipleship, and so we pray “your kingdom come on earth as in heaven”. 

Ordained ministry, licensed lay ministry and authorised lay ministry all work together to support the shared witness and service of all who are called into Christ’s fellowship.

Lay ministry is thriving in many different ways: people are exercising ministries which have no need of permission other than in their own parish. Authorised Lay Ministry enables and affirms many more people to offer their time and talents after a short but focussed training course facilitated by the Diocese, encouraging local diversity and diocesan collegiality.

The process

The training for ALM consists of a one-year course of common and specialist modules. Discernment about authorisation is part of the whole process, so towards the end of the Course letters will go to candidates, incumbents and tutors, checking out the call to ministry. Authorisation will be given by the Bishop at a celebration in the cathedral, and this will include a certificate, for five years from the date of authorisation, specific to their home parish and under the authority of the incumbent. Each ALM is asked to have this certificate endorsed by their Rural Dean at the annual deanery celebration of lay ministry.

As a diocesan training team we hope to offer ongoing support through spotting in-service opportunities and communicating these to ALMs, by encouraging local support in ministry teams, and by the provision of occasional study days. A process of discernment with the ALM and the incumbent precedes any re-authorisation towards the end of the initial 5 years period.

Discernment and selection

1. Potential candidates may be encouraged to consider a particular authorised lay ministry by their parish priest, by members of the church or by raising the possibility themselves. In every case those interested in such a role should discuss this carefully with their parish priest, and then with others in the church, bearing in mind the criteria set out below.

2. Candidates should:

  • show a clear commitment to personal growth in faith and discipleship;
  • be recognised by the leadership of church and by the congregation(s) as being committed to serving God’s mission through the work of the parish/benefice/deanery, as well as in their own daily life;
  • be committed to working collaboratively as a member of a team;
  • be eager to encourage the gifts of others;
  • show evidence of the gifts and skills appropriate to the particular ministry being considered,
    and the potential to develop them;
  • have an appetite for life-long learning in a Christian context and be enthusiastic
    about following a course of training and formation;
  • normally be actual communicant members of the Church of England;
  • be willing and able to comply with the diocesan policy on safeguarding children and
    adults with particular needs and vulnerabilities.

3. Before joining the Course candidates will need:

  • to complete an application form, including a reference from their parish priest; and the support of their PCC (s), including a resolution in the minutes;
  • complete a DBS check through the diocesan office;
  • complete a confidential declaration as required by the diocesan safeguarding policy.

4. The final decision about whether an application should be made rests with the parish priest in consultation with lay and clergy colleagues in leadership in the parish/benefice.

5. Where a parish is in vacancy, applications would be considered and supported by the Rural Dean in consultation with others in the parish/benefice. In such cases specific arrangements for the support and oversight of candidates in training and after authorisation must be put in place. The application process may also be delegated to a person appointed by the Rural Dean in consultation with the Course Leader.

6. Applications will be considered by the Course Leader and candidates may be called for a short interview.

7. The process of discernment continues throughout the course and a final decision about receiving the Bishop's authorisation will be made jointly between the Course Leader, parish priest and candidate towards the end of the training period.

Code of practice for Authorised Lay Ministry

The Bishop requires that:

  1. All ministries, ordained and lay, will be exercised within a collaborative team, although the size and shape of the ministry team may vary at a local level
  2. ALMs will work with the permission and support of the Incumbent and PCC, and be accountable to the Incumbent
  3. ALMs will be selected by clergy and lay people together
  4. those authorised will attend training provided by the diocese, including sessions for the whole team
  5. parishes will review their collaborative mission and ministry every 5 years with the help of an outside consultant (such as Rural Dean or Lay Chair), at which authorisation may be renewed or ended
  6. there will be provision for on-going support by deanery or diocese
  7. Authorised Lay Ministers renew their commitment annually via the Rural Dean