The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta is living out The Episcopal Church ideal of supporting the ministry of all believers.
On January 27, 2024, Diocesan Bishop Rob Wright commissioned 18 lay ministers from 15 parishes.
Those commissioned were Denise Adams, St. Julian’s; Meghan Bennett, St. Margaret’s; Amber Cotton, St. Margaret’s; Paul Davison, All Saints Warner Robins; Diane Hodgins, St. Clement’s; Marshall Jenkins, St. Peter’s; Gay Jolley, St. Martin’s; Jeana Langford, St. Margaret’s; Tom Reynolds, St. Aidan’s; Kathy Ruchala, St. Edward’s; Jack Setters, St. Mark’s Dalton; Vince Vitti, St. Martin’s; Nicole Walters, St. Paul’s Newnan; Molly Wilkins, St. Francis; Craig Wilson, Holy Innocents’; Julie Groce, Bishop’s Staff; Lindsey Hardegree, Bishop’s Staff; and Holle Tubbs, Bishop’s Staff.
Bishop Wright said the commissioning of laity to ongoing Diocesan roles is a result of baptism.
“Everything we do today. Commissioning of lay folks. Is downstream of baptism. It’s an expression of baptism. By water and the Spirit, Christ Jesus has been revealed to us. Good news of the gospel entrusted to us, and then we live it out, lay or ordained.
“What is the Bishop? I’m not exactly sure, but I know this. It flows from baptism. It’s only a way to live out one’s baptism. What is a priest? Ditto. Deacon Ditto. Same thing. One great waterfall from which come these beautiful colors. These beautiful expressions.
“Adoration. Oblation. God high and lifted up in our lives. And when that happens, the response is ‘What can I do for you today, God?’”
- Meghan Bennett, Amber Cotton, Diane Hodgins, Marshall Jenkins, Gay Jolley, Vince Vitti, Jeana Langford, Nicole Walters, Molly Wilkins, and Craig Wilson were commissioned as Lay Pastoral Caregivers of The Community of Hope International in the Diocese of Atlanta.
- Denise Adams, Marshall Jenkins, Jack Setters, Vince Vitti, Craig Wilson, Lindsey Hardegree, Holle Tubbs, and Julie Groce were commissioned and licensed to the ministry of Preacher.
- Denise Adams, Craig Wilson, and Kathy Ruchala were commissioned and licensed to the ministry of Worship Leader.
- Meghan Bennett, Paul Davison, Jeana Langford, Jack Setters, and Tom Reynolds were commissioned and licensed to the ministry of Pastoral Leader.
- Diane Hodgins, Molly Wilkins, and Craig Wilson were commissioned and licensed to the ministry of Evangelist.
- Paul Davison and Jack Setters were commissioned and licensed to the ministry of Catechist.
- Meghan Bennett, Diane Hodgins, Jeana Langford, and Nicole Walters were commissioned and licensed to the ministry of Eucharistic Minister and Eucharistic Visitor.
During the service at The Cathedral of St. Philip, Bishop Wright solemnized the lay ministers roles, saying, “In the Name of God and of this Diocese, I commission you as Pastoral Caregiver, Licensed Preacher, Licensed Worship Leader, Licensed Eucharistic Minister, Licensed Eucharistic Visitor, Licensed Catechist, and give you this certificate as a token of your ministry.”
During his sermon, Wright told those assembled for commissioning to remember the church belongs to Jesus.
“It’s Jesus’s church. Not the rector. Not the Bishop. Not the senior warden. Not that lay person. It’s his church. His church to work out his purposes.”
To support the expansion of Licensed lay ministries the Diocese in 2022 held the first Formation for All the Baptized (FAB) to prepare people to be licensed lay ministers. The inaugural group of 15 lay ministers were commissioned in January 2023.
Licensed Lay Ministries include:
- Pastoral Leader – A lay person authorized to exercise pastoral or administrative responsibility in a congregation under special circumstances, as defined by the Bishop.
- Worship Leader – a lay person who regularly leads public worship under the direction of the member of the clergy or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation or other community of faith.
- Preacher – a lay person authorized to preach. Persons so authorized shall only preach in congregations under the direction of the member of the clergy or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation or other community of faith.
- Catechist – a lay person authorized to prepare persons for Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, and the Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows, and shall function under the direction of the member of the clergy or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation or other community of faith.
- Eucharistic Minister – a lay person authorized to administer the Consecrated Elements at a Celebration of Holy Eucharist. A Eucharistic Minister should normally act under the direction of a deacon, if any, or otherwise, the member of the clergy or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation or other community of faith.
- Eucharistic Visitor – a lay person authorized to take the Consecrated Elements in a timely manner following a Celebration of Holy Eucharist to members of the congregation who, by reason of illness or infirmity, were unable to be present at the celebration. A Eucharistic Visitor should normally act under the direction of a deacon, if any, or otherwise, the member of the clergy or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation or other community of faith.
- Evangelist – a lay person who presents the good news of Jesus Christ in such a way that people are led to receive Christ as Savior and follow Christ as Lord in the fellowship of the Church. An Evangelist assists with the community’s ministry of evangelism in partnership with the presbyter or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation, or as directed by the bishop.
The Episcopal Church in its Constitution and Canons provides for licensing lay people in a process similar to that for ordained ministry. In the Diocese of Atlanta, the process includes:
- Support from the person’s community of faith, including endorsement from the clergy exercising oversight and the vestry.
- Identifying the person’s gifts, listening for God’s activity in your life, discerning next steps toward vocational calling; meeting with the Commission on Ministry to share about the person’s discernment
- Participating in the formation program for the person’s licensed lay ministry track
- Sharing about the person’s formation and being recommended for the person’s commissioning as a licensed lay minister.
- Being commissioned by the bishop at a diocesan service
The Diocese has long had a process for the licensure of parish Eucharistic Ministers and Eucharistic Visitors. It includes local formation by parish clergy and a licensure application submitted at this online portal. That process remains unchanged for those doing that ministry in their parish.
For anyone who wants to be licensed for ministry in parishes beyond their own the new Diocesan licensure process must be followed.
Licensed lay ministers are also required to participate in quarterly debriefing check-ins and to submit reports.
Interested in learning more about licensed lay ministry? Start here.
To further explore one of these lay ministries, talk to your priest or the leader exercising oversight in your community of faith, then contact Sally Ulrey at email@example.com.