Lay Readers serve their congregations in two ways: assisting clergy in leading services; or, leading services in the absence of clergy.

To serve as a Lay Reader in this diocese, a layman must be baptized, confirmed, maintain regular attendance at services, and not be under church discipline. He must be able to carefully and articulately read aloud the texts of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. He must complete the requisite training program and be licensed by the bishop.

Frequently Asked Questions

May Lay Readers preach their own sermons?

No, unless they have received specific authorization from the bishop.

Some Lay Readers, upon satisfactory completion of appropriate training and examination, may be authorized by the bishop to preach their own sermons. In such cases, the Lay Reader’s license will indicate this authorization.

May Lay Readers serve communion?

No. Lay Readers are not authorized to either assist clergymen in serving communion or to distribute communion in the absence of clergymen.

May Lay Readers wear clergy attire?

No. Lay Readers are not authorized to wear clergy collars or other symbols of ordained ministry. Typically, when leading or assisting in services, Lay Readers wear cassock and surplice. They may also wear a Lay Reader scarf of royal blue.

Qualifications and duties of lay readers

The Canons of the United Episcopal Church specify the qualifications and duties of lay readers.

Canon 52. Of Lay Readers.

Sec. 1. A competent person ready and desirous to serve the Church in the public services stately as a Lay Reader must procure a written license from the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese, Missionary District, or another place under Ecclesiastical jurisdiction of which he is a canonical resident. Such license shall not be granted to any but a male communicant of this Church, and must be given for a definite period, not longer than one year, but may be renewed from time to time, or revoked at any time. Such license may be given for any vacant Congregation without a Clergyman, but where a Presbyter is in charge, his request and recommendation must have been previously signified to the Ecclesiastical Authority. A license shall not be granted for conducting the service in a Congregation without a Clergyman, which is able and has had reasonable opportunity to secure the services of a Clergyman.

Sec. 2. A Lay Reader shall be subject to the regulations prescribed by the Ecclesiastical Authority, and shall not serve in any Diocese, Missionary District, or other place under Ecclesiastical jurisdiction other than that in which he is licensed, unless he shall have received a license from the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese, Missionary District, or another place under Ecclesiastical jurisdiction in which he desires to serve.

Sec. 3. In all matters relating to the conduct of the service, and to the Sermons or Homilies to be read, he shall conform to the directions of the Clergyman in charge of the Congregation in which he is serving, and, in all cases, to the directions of the Ecclesiastical Authority. He shall read only the following Offices, or parts thereof, and shall observe the limitations mentioned:
(1) Morning and Evening Prayer, omitting the Absolution, and making no substitution for it.
(2) The Litany.
(3) The Penitential Office.
(4) The Offices of Instruction.
(5) In the Order for Holy Communion, the Epistle only.
(6) The Burial Offices; substituting for the priestly blessing the concluding prayer at the end of the Shorter Form for Family Prayer at Evening; substituting for the priestly blessing at the grave the final prayer at the end of the Shorter Form for Family Prayer at Morning; and substituting for the priestly blessing at the Burial of a Child the concluding prayer at the end of the Shorter Form for Family Prayer at Evening.

Sec. 4. He shall not deliver sermons or addresses of his own composition, unless, after instruction and examination, he be specially licensed thereto for urgent needs by the Ecclesiastical Authority. He shall not wear the dress appropriate to Clergymen ministering in the Congregation.

Canon 47. Sec 2. e.

Whenever the House of Bishops shall put forth a Pastoral Letter, it shall be the duty of every Clergyman having a pastoral charge, or, if there be none, a Lay Reader, or the senior Churchwarden, to read it to his Congregation on some occasion of public worship on a Lord’s Day, not later than one month after the receipt of the same.

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