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presider never preaching

priestpresbyterI have been developing a theology and practice here of ordained priesthood/presbyterate where presiding-preaching-pastoring are three intimately intertwined, irreducible dimensions.

This post might be regarded as a fourth (in a trilogy) reflecting on:

Here’s the question/issue:

In a two (or more) priest community, there are some who have developed a tradition where one priest presides at the Eucharist and the other priest preaches. They roster week about. In other words the presider never preaches, and the preacher never presides.

What do you think?

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23 thoughts on “presider never preaching”

  1. I grew up in a Lutheran congregation with two pastors and the arrangement was similar to what you describe. However, when one pastor took vacation, of course the other pastor both preached and presided. And I saw at other congregations (where there was only one pastor) that pastors did both preach and preside. So I don’t think it hurt me spiritually, or warped my understanding of ordained ministry, or something. . . .

  2. David |dah•veed|

    Since that is the only day of the week they work, and since that is the only two things that they have to do all week, if one of them preached and presided, what are we paying the other one for?

    1. I love your point, David. Maybe they should preach the one sermon together – one word each alternating back and forth. Then at least they would need to take some time to rehearse 🙂

  3. I think it is a good arrangement, Bosco; one reason being that supplied in David’s comment!

    The two priests represent the diocesan college of presbyters in that place. Together they share in the priestly duties for worship. I can think of no particular reason why one should preach+preside and the other merely be present (though that choice would be fine).

    A further point is the strong sense in the NT of multiple people contributing to worship, each bringing something to worship (1 Corinthians 14:26). In an ordered episcopal/presbyteral church we do not permit anyone but a priest to bring “presiding” and we do not permit an unlicensed preacher to bring “preaching”; but I think it would be in the spirit of 1 Cor 14:26 if one priest brings the sermon and the other comes to preside at the eucharist.

    Together, we could say, they share in presidency of the whole service, as an expression of their presidency of the whole parish community.

  4. In the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, we have a license for “lay preacher.” When I did my training it was not difficult but not a cake walk either. I had to give 4 homilies/spiritual talks under supervision, in a variety of settings (including one in a “non-church setting” (nursing home, etc.). I had to write some papers showing I had knowledge of Scripture (write about a theme that carries over from old to new testament, write an in depth look at a single topic in one of the gospels, etc.) I also had to demonstrate knowledge of the liturgical calendar. It was a little work but nothing awful.

    1. Kirkepiscatoid, we used to have “lay readers”, but generally no longer. We now have a number of “licenses”, but it is quite unclear who requires one and who does not. TEC, I understand, also has a rigorous requirement and examinations prior to ordination. We do not. I think NZ used to have such requirements and examinations, but I do not know the history of that, whether they were national or diocesan, and when they stopped, and why. Certainly it would be great to have someone explain that history in a comment.

      A final point: I know who Kirkepiscatoid is, and they know I know. I think we have a wonderful culture on comments here and I will maintain and enhance that. Part of that IMO comes from using our real names and linking to our blogs etc. rather than using pseudonyms or anonymity. I have seen a very good site shut down because the comments deteriorated. And we have just seen another good site shut down its comments. Kirkepiscatoid’s is the sort of helpful, positive comment I want to encourage on this site.

  5. In the dioceses I know about in Australia, a person needs to hold some authority from the diocesan bishop to preach. For clergy this would come with their licence to a particular parish, or a permission-to-officiate, for lay people it generally comes in the form of authorisation/licencing as an authorised lay minister (that is the wording from the canon of General Synod – they have different names in different dioceses, such as lay reader). The incumbent of a parish may ask someone else to preach on an ad hoc basis, but if they do it regularly they need to be authorised, and they do it in the presence of the incumbent.

  6. Hmm. Maybe I do not understand Anglican law or lore: I have always understood that regular preachers in Anglican churches (in NZ) should be licensed by the licensing bishop to do so. Yes, there are occasional unlicensed preachers because the occasion makes that appropriate (the youth leader preaches this month at the youth service or the visiting missionary promotes the cause of their particular mission), but were the youth leader to be part of the preaching roster or the missionary to return from the field and be regularly asked to preach, they should be licensed …

    1. One of us should check the provincial and diocesan regulations, Peter, and place a clarification here. Upon the abandonment of “lay readers” there was a time when every “ministry” was receiving a license, and one daren’t visit a neighbour with some scones if they were sick without a bishop’s license! I think this move from the ministry of all the baptised to the ministry of all the licensed has grave issues! What was even worse is bishops were abandoning their canonical requirement to not alter the ordinal and licensing serving tea after the service in the middle of the same prayer of consecration that ordained a priest!

  7. Although I don’t have a problem with this tandem arrangement, my personal preference is for the presbyter presiding to preach also.

    My reasons are that it helps keep the focus of the Eucharist on the presbyter who is “in persona Christi”, lends more of a sense of authority to the preached words, and demonstrates the presbyter’s pastoral concern for the flock. It strengthens the triune character of the ordained priesthood by sacramentally expressing the presiding, preaching and pastoral aspects together liturgically in one (Christ) focus – stressing the fullness of Christ in the sacrament.

    For me, the roles of deacon and servers at the altar are supporting, rather than carving up the presiding presbyter’s role. The exception is a concelebration, which is intentionally expressing the collegiality of the bishops/presbyters – stressing the fullness of the Church.

    Just my personal view.

    1. Christian, I think you are making an important point. Some clergy only put on a chasuble for the Ministry of the Sacrament. This concerns me. It divides the service unnecessarily and it diminishes the significance of the Liturgy of the Word – as if Christ is more present in one than the other. In my book Celebrating Eucharist I also ask some questions about “concelebration” which Peter’s comment tended towards, as it can tend towards reinforcing a clerical caste (we are all “concelebrating” at the Eucharist – lay and ordained). As in all such things, though, it appears to be less that there are clear black and white rules which must be obeyed, and more grey areas and various possibilities and contexts?

  8. A subjective observation from my own life: when I preach but do not preside, the sermon feels more like a “performance” than when I do both. My whole involvement with the service is reduced to “how did the sermon go?” — it feels like I’m a soloist. When I preach and preside, on the other hand, the sermon feels like a part of the whole, and I tend not to think “how did the sermon go?” any more than I think “how did the epiclesis go?” I’m not suggesting this has any real bearing on the discussion; just a feeling I’ve had to work to overcome. I admit to preferring to do both when I do either.

  9. Wow, Bosco, you have prompted me to further my lifelong ambition of mastering the statutory details of each diocese in which I serve. Having come from a diocese which did have a regulation re licensing of lay preachers (a change after the cessation of ‘lay readers’) I now admit the errors of my ways (as in above comment) because in the diocese in which you and I serve, I see the regulation includes, ‘When they are exercising such [lay people’s tasks of] ministry under the oversight or supervision of someone holding a Bishop’s Licence they may do so without authorisation by Bishop’s licence.’ Thus no licence required. I stand corrected.

    Might I be right in thinking that a licensed lay minister (cups of tea and scones), on the literal interpretation of this statute, might be thereby competent to supervise an unlicensed lay minister (preaching, Christian education)?

  10. I thoroughly agree with this (heavily aliterated!) model. In most teams that I have served in I have not been the only priest, or indeed the only preacher. Sharing the tasks reflects that we work together in a collegiate model – and, as I have said, makes perfect sense and emphasises our equality in a multi-denominational team.

    I do, however, understand the point of the unity of the priest/presbyter role and practically find that everything works easiest (no emerging conflicting themes for example!) when the whole service is done by one person.

    On balance I think that the point about our collegiate ministry is more important that the individualistic one about the unity of the presbyter/priest role.

  11. This model seems to assume that it is only those ordained priest that do the preaching and pastoring.

    In my own Church we have two priests, two licensed lay ministers and a retired Methodist Minister. It would be rare for the one who presides to preach. All are involved in pastoral and preaching duties and we do not limit who can preach at the Eucharist to those ordained priest.

    Also, the model assumes that the Priest is a good preacher and pastor – experience tells me that is not the case. One of our priests is an first class pastor, but there are groans when they enter the pulpit!

  12. When I was a curate, the regular arrangement was exactly as you describe…and I’m with Mark, – it made me feel very much as if the sermon was a “performance”. On one or two rare occasions (when the vicar was on holiday, and the retired clergy licensed to us wanted to take a break) I did get the opportunity to both preside and preach and it gave me a feeling of greater cohesion in our worship…eg I could use an intro to the Peace that picked up the theme of my sermon, choose the most appropriate Eucharistic prayer etc. Now I’m in a one-priest parish, til my colleague is priested at Trinity, so I’m in that position far more often – and the specialness of it has gone, but I would still say there’s something to be said for it.

  13. In the very large Episcopal church which I attended in Atlanta, Georgia, there were always three sacred ministers at the altar during the two principal masses. All three were priests, but they vested as, and performed the liturgical roles of the priest-celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon. The subdeacon was always also the preacher. When I asked why this was so, I was told
    that the subdeacon has the least to do in the liturgy, and so could focus more on the sermon. I suppose that makes sense.

    I should add that that parish had some eight or so ordained priests- and one transitional deacon – all told, including the ones associated with the school rather than the church proper. The ones which were not celebrants at the principal services celebrated and preached at three overflow masses – Saturday night, 8 AM Sunday morning, and then Sunday evening.

    The principal services had a 30 minute sermon, the others had a 5-10 minute homily.

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