Diocesan Guidelines for the Use of Deacons


"Liturgy not grounded (in receiving the revelation of God) quickly becomes sterile, a boring show even if a very artistic performance."

- Basil Pennington, Monastery


General: Definitions and Policies Diocesan Liturgies: Ordination, New Ministry, Convention Eucharist
Episcopal Visitations Confirmations, Receptions, Reaffirmations

1.    General

A. Definitions:

(1) Customary. A "customary" specifies ceremonial customs and practices in the liturgies of a particular ecclesiastical jurisdiction. In this case, the customary is to be used in the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Northwest Texas.

(2) Prayer Book. This refers to the Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church According to the Use of the Episcopal Church, 1979.

(3) Ordinary. The Ordinary is the bishop of a diocese. He has original jurisdiction in his own right, not by deputation. The Ordinary is the chief liturgical officer of the diocese.

(4)Officiant. The person, clergy or lay, leading or conducting a public service is called the Officiant.

(5)President. The person who presides at a eucharistic celebration is called the president. (The term celebrant is sometimes used synonymously.) The president will always be the Ordinary or someone authorized by him, e.g. a parish priest.

(6) Lector. Any person who reads a lesson in a liturgy is called a lector.

(7) Intercessor or Orator. A person who leads in common prayer is properly called an intercessor or an orator.

(8) Prefer. The word prefer/prefers/preference appears many time in this customary. By this the Ordinary intends to specify ideals, norms, or goals which he would like to have parishes and missions work towards. "Prefer" is not meant to communicate rigid demands, but the clergy and people of the Diocese are expected to make a reasonable effort to comply wherever possible.

B.     Corporate worship conducted in this Diocese will conform to the rubrics and texts of the Prayer Book. Every effort will be made to conform exactly to the sections entitled "Concerning the Service."

C.    Rectors and vicars are responsible for the conduct of public worship in their cures and for compliance therein with the Prayer Book and the directions of the Ordinary (Title III, Canon 14, Section 1[a]). Clergy are reminded that the use of the Prayer Book is prescribed by the Constitution of the Episcopal Church and that the violation of the rubrics of the Prayer Book is an offense which renders one liable to presentment and trial under Title IV of the Canons of this Church.

D.    The Holy Eucharist is the principal service of the church on the Lordís Day. It will be celebrated in all churches every Sunday if possible. When no priest is available, the congregation meets its Sunday obligation "to worship God in his church" by singing and saying the Divine Office (Morning and Evening Prayer) or the Ante-communion.

E.    Holy Baptism is full and complete initiation in the Body (corpus) of Christ and is prerequisite to oneís receiving the holy communion.

F.    Baptisms are to be performed in all the churches at the principal service on Easter, the Day of Pentecost, All Saintsí Day or the Sunday after All Saintsí Day, on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord and on the occasion of the Bishopís visit. If there is no candidate for Baptism, the congregation will participate in the Renewal of the Baptismal Covenant.

G.    The oil of chrism is preferred for the Insignation.

H.    It is preferred that candidates for Baptism be vested in white (an alb or baptismal gown).

I.    No gala parties, lavish meals, or festal rites, including weddings, will be celebrated during the seasons of Lent or Advent except as permitted on Sundays, red-letter Prayer Book holy days and as authorized by the Ordinary. Absolutely no parties or festal rites of any kind will be permitted during Holy Week from noon on Passion Sunday until noon on Holy Saturday.


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2.     Diocesan Liturgies

A.    General

(1)    Diocesan liturgies that are specifically covered by this customary include Ordinations, Confirmations, and Diocesan Convention Liturgies. Episcopal Visitations are also covered, although they may not be considered "diocesan." Diocesan conferences such as Clergy Conference, ECW Conference, etc., are not specifically dealt with but it is presumed that worship at all church conferences in this Diocese will conform with the principles listed herein.

(2)    Most diocesan liturgies will be festive occasions and the liturgical color will be festal white/gold/ or multi-colored unless otherwise prescribed by the Bishop.

(3)    At eucharistic liturgies, the Bishop, when presiding, will customarily vest in alb, stole, cope and miter, and will carry his pastoral staff in procession. On some occasions he may choose to wear a chasuble instead of a cope, or to remove the cope and put on a chasuble at the offertory. If he chooses to do the latter, he will inform the Master of Ceremonies in advance.

(4)    At eucharistic liturgies, priests and deacons assisting sacerdotally at the altar or with the administration of the sacrament will customarily vest in alb, cincture, and stole. They may be vested in chasubles and dalmatics, respectively, if the president desires. If they are participating only as members of the congregation, they shall vest in choir habit: cassock, surplice and stole.

(5)    At the Divine Office, the Bishop will customarily vest in rochet and chimere. Clergy will vest in choir habit: cassock, surplice, hood, and tippet.


(6)    The baptismal garment (the white alb or surplice) is the proper vestment of any baptized person. For the lay minister, the alb with cincture is preferred at the Holy Eucharist and the cassock and surplice at a reading of the Divine Office. A lector may wear street clothes if requested to do so by the president or Officiant.

(7)    A lay person may administer the elements at the Holy Eucharist only if he/she is a licensed Lay Eucharistic Minister (LEM) and if there is not a sufficient number of priests or deacons present to do so. (See Episcopal Church Canons: title III, Canon 3, Sec. 5[c].)

(8)    It is preferred that everyone receive the communion bread in the hands and the communion wine directly from the chalice. Persons may communicate in one kind only or they may have the minister dip the bread in the chalice and then place it in the mouth of the communicant. Any other method of administration is to be discouraged.

(9)    The fullest possible use should be made of the Liturgy of the Word. It is preferred that all three lessons and the Psalm appointed be used. Hymns that complement the reading should be used . (The Hymnbook 1982 contains an Index of Scriptural References, p. 1031 and the Church Hymnal Corporation publishes M. Hatchettís Scriptural Index to the Hymnal 1982.) The use of periods of silence following each lesson is strongly recommended.

(10)    It is preferred that the Psalms be sung. The New Metrical Psalter may be used to make this easier for a congregation.

(11)    It is preferred that the congregation stand for hymns and prayers (except as indicated in #12 below), for the reading of the Gospel, for the Creed, Offertory, and Sanctus.

(12)    It is preferred that the congregation kneel for the confession of sin, to receive the Absolution, to receive a Blessing, for the Litany (unless sung in procession) or to participate in any penitential rite.

(13)    It is preferred that the congregation be seated for the readings and Psalms and for the sermon.

(14)    For communion, homemade bread, leavened or unleavened, is preferred over commercial wafers. Red table wine is preferred over white wine.

(15)    Whenever possible at the Holy Eucharist, deacons should lead in the Prayers of the People, read the Gospel, prepare the holy table, assist in the administration of the Sacrament, and dismiss the people.

(16)    Rite II and the contemporary form of the Lordís Prayer are preferred for the diocesan eucharistic liturgies.

(17)    Use of The Hymnal 1982 is not mandatory, as is the Prayer Book, but its use is preferred at diocesan liturgies, especially for congregational singing. It contains over seven-hundred hymns, many of which are, or should be, familiar to all. It contains some hymns that are appropriate to virtually any occasion. Furthermore, when we use the Hymnal 1982 we do not have to be concerned about copyrights or blatant heresies.


B.    Ordinations (see also 2.a. above)

(1)    The ordinand consults with the Bishop as far in advance as is feasible to select options and appoint participants: presenters, preacher, litanist, etc.

(2)    The Ordinary will be seated in the chancel and the ordinand(s) will be presented before him. The Bishopís Chaplain will have the Declaration of Conformity and a pen for the ordinandís signature.

(3)    It is preferred that the Litany for Ordinations be sung. The litanist should be provided with a litany desk if that is feasible. The Litany for Ordinations is to be prayed with the congregation kneeling if the situation permits.

(4)    At the Ordination of a Priest, it is preferable for the presbyters to come forward before the beginning of the Veni Creator Spiritus, so that it does not become "walking music" It is, itself, an important prayer and not background music.

(5)    The ordinand should be vested by the clergy presenters.

(6)    At the Ordination of a Priest, the new priest concelebrates with the Bishop at the eucharist. He/she assists the bishop with the administration of the sacrament. The bishop will ask him/her to bless the people.

(7)    At the Ordination of a Deacon, the new deacon(s) prepares the table at the offertory, administers a chalice, and dismisses the congregation.


C.    Celebration of a New Ministry (see also 2.a. above)

(1)    The Celebration of a New Ministry will normally be scheduled within a few months of the beginning of the priestís tenure, but enough time should elapse to provide an opportunity for the priest to get acquainted with the congregation.

(2)    There are numerous options in this liturgy. The Ordinary expect to approve the options chosen for each particular celebration well in advance.

(3)    The Bishop will be seated at the chancel and will read the appropriate Letter of Institution or its equivalent.

(4)    Ecumenical guests, clergy of other denominations, local civic and social service leaders, will be invited by the priest being instituted, as deemed appropriate to the priestís particular office and function. Local Lutherans (ELCA) clergy will always be invited. Visiting clergy should be asked to vest according to their own tradition and to process.

(5)    If presentations signifying the new ministries are to be made, as per BCP page 561F (The Induction), they will be kept to an absolute maximum of ten and will include the presentation of Bible and Baptismal Water.

(6)    If presentations signifying the new ministries are to be made, the priest should respond to each presentation as follows:

Priest: Will you join with me in this ministry through the Spirit we received in our Baptism?

People: We will with Godís help.

(7)    If presentations signifying the new ministries are to be made, the persons making the presentations should sit at random in the congregation and move from their seats to the chancel for their presentations. A small table should be conveniently placed nearby so that the items presented may be placed upon it. If bread and wine is presented, it should be used in the communion; therefore the presentation of the oblations at the offertory is unnecessary in this service.

D. Diocesan Convention (see also 2.a. above)

(1)    The host parish is responsible for arranging for a place for worship services at the Annual Convention of the Diocese with the approval of the bishop.

(2)    The Chair of the Liturgical Committee of the Diocese and the Canon to the Ordinary (if there is one) consult with the host rector and the local liturgical committee to make arrangements for the services. With the advice and consent of the Bishop, they select the propers and designate the participants.

(3)    The host parish or diocesan office publishes the service booklets(s) in consultation with the Canon and Chair of the Diocesan Liturgical Committee.

(4)    The host parish arranges for the music for the services in consultation with the Canon and Chair of the Diocesan Liturgical Committee.

(5)    The chair of the Diocesan Liturgical Committee serves as Master of Ceremonies.

(6)    The Canon to the Ordinary or Archdeacon serves as Bishopís Chaplain.

(7)    The host parish provides servers, acolytes, ushers, etc., as appropriate to the particular service.

(8)    The host parish arranges to have the collection which is taken at the offertory at each service counted and deposited. Later, the treasurer of the host parish sends a check to the Diocese for these amounts. The offerings are designated by the Bishop for special purposes which are announced.

(9)    Local ecumenical guests should be invited by the host rector to participate in the worship services of the Convention. They should be encouraged to vest according to their own tradition and to process with the clergy.

(10)    The Convention customarily opens with Evening Prayer (Evensong).

I  All clergy vest in choir habit.

II  The sermon customarily follows the second lesson and is preached by the guest speaker or keynoter of Convention.

III  The Collect of the Day and collect For the Diocese and For a Church Convention are always used.

IV  The Doxology is customarily sung at the presentation of alms and the General Thanksgiving is read by the congregation.

V  The Bishop concludes the Office with a blessing. 

VI  It is preferred that the traditional six office candles be lighted at this service and not the eucharistic (large altar) candles. Candles should be extinguished immediately after the blessing.


(11)    The Convention Eucharist is customarily celebrated on Sunday morning.

I  The Bishop always presides at this Eucharist and designates who shall serve as preacher.

II  All clergy of the Diocese vest and process at this liturgy. Vestments are red unless the Bishop specifies another color. Altar party members vest in alb and stole. All other clergy vest in cassock surplice, and stole.

III  Rite II with the contemporary form of the Lordís Prayer is preferred.

IV  Deacons are used to read the Gospel, set the Table, and give the Dismissal.

V  The President of the Diocesan Episcopal Churchwomen customarily reads the first lesson.

VI  The United thank Offering is customarily taken up at this service. The Diocesan UTO Chair makes arrangements for this portion of the service in consultation with the Master of Ceremonies and provides an alms basin for the offering

VII  The Doxology is not customarily sung at this service. After the alms are brought forward the President begins the sursum corda immediately and the preface and sanctus (sung by the people), The Great Thanksgiving constitutes the eucharistic (thanksgiving) act.

VIII  One loaf of leavened bread is preferred and only one chalice should be on the altar at the time of the consecration. Other wine should be in flagons. Ample patens and purificators should be provided.

IX  The Bishop does use the lavabo. He customarily celebrates "English style," wearing the cope throughout the service and not changing into a chasuble.

X  The eucharist (large altar) candles are traditionally lighted at this service, as well as the office candles.


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3.    Episcopal Visitations (see also 2.a. above)

A.     The Bishop schedules a visit to each parish, mission, congregation, and school in an 18 month rota. The Bishopís calendar is shaped in the late summer. Requests for special dates or additional visits should be submitted to the bishopís secretary.

B.    An opportunity should be provided for the bishop to meet with the vestry or bishopís committee during the course of his annual visitation.

C.    The bishop should be notified well in advance of the arrangements that are made for his visit, including housing arrangements with telephone numbers at which he can be reached, a schedule of services and meetings, what is expected of him at any special meetings or functions, and service bulletins whenever possible (a "visitation planning checklist" will be mailed by the bishopís office in advance of a visitation).

D.    When the bishop arrives, he should have laid before him the Parish Register and the Register of Services and, if there is to be a baptism, the appropriate information and the certificate(s) ready to be signed.

E.    Holy Baptism in the context of the Holy Eucharist is to be the principal service for every Episcopal Visitation. If there is no baptism, The Renewal of the Baptismal Covenant (BCP pp. 292-4) will be used in place of the Nicene Creed. The Bishop presides and preaches.

F.    When there is a baptism, the Bishop officiates at the Presentation and Examination and takes the part of the "celebrant" in the Baptismal Covenant. A person appointed leads the Prayers for the Candidates. The Bishop blesses the water and consecrates the chrism. A local priest will perform the baptism, but the bishop chrismates the candidate and leads in the prayer "Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water.." and all that follows on page 308. (See the third paragraph on page 298.)

G. The loose offering for the Bishopís Discretionary Fund should be sent to the Bishopís Office as soon as possible after the visitation.

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4.    Confirmations (Receptions, Reaffirmations) (see also 2.a. above)


A.    Confirmations are scheduled by the Bishop at the time of the Bishopís Visitation and other occasions as requested.

B.    Individuals to be presented for confirmation will be mature adults, at least 16 years of age, who were previously baptized. Prior to presentation to the Bishop for confirmation, they shall have been instructed in "An Outline of the Faith commonly called the Catechism," and shall have committed to memory the Apostlesí Creed and the Lordís Prayer. This will constitute an absolute minimum of preparation for confirmation.

C.    Information sheets on candidates for confirmation, reception, or reaffirmation should be prepared by presenting clergy and laid before the Bishop upon his arrival. Appropriate certificates should likewise be prepared and ready to be signed by the Bishop.

D.    Arrangements should be made by the host rector for a time and place for the Bishop to meet informally with the confirmands prior to the service. In addition, a reception should be scheduled following the service.

E.    Laity, deacons, priests, and bishop(s) should be represented and used in the liturgy to the fullest extent possible.


Posted May 9, 2002


Click Here for the Diocesan Guidelines for the Use of Deacons

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Last Updated: July 19, 2006