More on Lay Leadership of Liturgy


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the process of discernment, training and delegation for lay leaders of liturgy. This week I will deal with some of the practical issues that arise with lay leadership of liturgy.

A lay leader of liturgy needs to be careful not to fall into the trap of automatically using the same words and gestures as anordained leader. A lay person presides as 'one among equals', so the gestures and words are often different.

For example,in place of the liturgical greeting 'The Lord be with you', a lay leader employs a form of words that is not proper to a priest or deacon and which uses the pronoun ‘you’ instead of ‘us’, such as “ Christ be with us, Christ within us, Christ behind us, Christ before us, Christ beside us, now and forever”. Similarly, the wording of the dismissal is “Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

With a blessing, the leadermakes the sign of the cross onthemselves, with the assembly doing the same, while proclaiming a prayer which uses 'us' instead of 'you' asabove. For example:“+May the God of hope fill us with every joy in believing. May the peace of Christ abound in our hearts. May the Holy Spirit enrich us with gifts for service, now and forever.”
At a liturgy led by a lay person, the full complement of other lay ministers is used for reading the Scriptures, leading the singing, announcing the prayer intentions and distributing communion. It is also preferable to have different ministers for leading the liturgy and preaching.
A minister of the word, not the lay leader, should read the gospel. At Mass, the presider reads the gospel because he is ordained, not because he is the prayer leader! In fact, if another priest or a deacon is present, it is he who reads the gospel; the two roles are not normally carried out by the same person. Because we are used to it happening by default, we have come to believe that this is the rule.
According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal: “The sacred garment common to the ordained and instituted ministers of any rank is the alb” (GIRM 2000 # 336). The Guidelines for Lay Leaders of Liturgy for the Archdiocese of Brisbane suggest that on more formal occasions (Sundays and funerals), the lay leader of liturgy vests in a well-designed alb. On less formal occasions such as weekdays, the lay leader does not need to vest.

Vesting adds dignity to a service and recognises the worship leader as a representative of the faith community. The clothing of liturgical ministers, whether vested or not, should reflect reverence for the ministry, the assembly and for the liturgy and not distract the assembly’s attention away from their ministry.

It is not appropriate for the leader to use the presider’s chair (Vatican Directory #40). A place near the presider’s chair will often prove to be suitable but on less formal occasions the lay leader can simply sit in the front row with the rest of the people. The lay leader of liturgy never presides from the ambo or altar which are reserved for the reading and preaching of scripture and for the celebration of the Eucharist respectively, and respectfully!


Elizabeth Harrington