More about Liturgical Ministry - 24th May 2015

It is not only readers, musicians, altar servers and so on who are involved in liturgical ministry.  When the people of God gather for public worship – liturgy – they engage in liturgical ministry as members of the assembly.  This means that all present serve the community by participating fully and actively in the singing and responses, sharing the sign of peace, standing and kneeling together, being present to one another. 

The liturgy is not only the right of the baptised, it is their duty, and part of that duty is to accept some responsibility for the liturgy, to place themselves and their God-given talents at the service of the liturgical community whenever possible.

Whether one brings forward the bread and wine at the Presentation of the Gifts, reads the word of God, assists with the distribution of Holy Communion, serves at the altar or provides music for the celebration, he or she is contributing to the worship of the community and fulfilling the responsibility that comes with Baptism.

There is a wide variety of services to be performed, and it is desirable that different individuals exercise those services so that the talents and gifts God has placed within the community are fully utilised and not monopolised by a few.

As I said last week, some people find the use of the word “ministry” to describe roles in the liturgy - music ministers, art and environment ministers, for example – problematic. But the term “ministry” is used intentionally because it reflects the fact that these roles are not about getting tasks done efficiently but about serving the liturgy and caring for persons.  

The task of a minister of the word is not simply to read the scriptures at liturgy but to enable people to hear the word of God.  Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are not used so that the sacred species is distributed efficiently, but to enable members of the assembly to eat and drink together at the Lord’s Table.  

Having an attitude of service impacts on the minister’s preparation, commitment and demeanour. The concept of ministry also offers a guide to the qualities required for those called to liturgical ministry: an attitude of service, respect for people, care above efficiency and reverence for sacred things.

Someone who reads the scriptures at liturgy needs to be a person who lives by the word and is good news to others; a Communion Minister one who values the Eucharist, lives it out, who is the Body of Christ for others; a Commentator someone who lives the liturgy, who gently invites others into the act of worship.

It is important for those involved in liturgical ministry to keep in mind always that their fundamental ministry is as a member of the assembly. This means modelling full, conscious, active participation in the ENTIRE liturgy, not just those parts where they perform their ministry. This particularly applies to musicians who are often in full view of the assembly.

The essential skills required of liturgical ministers are to understand the liturgy, the assembly and their particular role, to know now the tools involved in their ministry (voice, lectionary, vestments and vessels, microphone, etc.) and to study what the Church says about their ministry in the liturgy documents and diocesan guidelines.


Elizabeth Harrington