Liturgical Assistant Q&A Forum
Learn from and share information with other Liturgical Assistants by browsing responses to questions asked, sharing your knowledge and experience, or asking a question of your own.
Answers to questions asked
What is a surplice?
A surplice is a loose gown of white linen (or may be of quality cotton) with hanging sleeves and reaching typically at least to the knees. It is worn over the cassock by clergy and servers when they are not wearing Eucharistic vestments (e.g. albs) and also by choir members.
Clergy wear cassock and surplice for non-Eucharistic services, such as Morning and Evening Prayer, and may also wear them for funerals and when leading remembrance services (e.g. Anzac Day, Remembrance Day).
A shorter, “cut-down” version of the surplice is the cotta; cottas may be worn by clergy and servers in place of a surplice.
Illustration from Denis Taylor, In His Presence.
The Religious Education Press Ltd, Surrey. 1959.
What sort of preparation is needed by a Liturgical Assistant before a service?
Every service of worship should be a smooth-flowing, cohesive, joyful expression of praise to the Lord.
One way to achieve this is through prayerful preparation for the service. The vestry prayer simply is not adequate in itself. A time of quiet reflection is essential for those preparing to minister in the sanctuary. This includes reading all the scripture passages for the service; not only to prepare for the focus of the worship, but also to be confident in reading if the allocated reader isn’t there.
Practical preparation is also essential:
- Check the Altar and Credence Table to make sure everything is correctly set up.
- Make sure the correct readings for the particular day are marked and that the rostered readers are in attendance.
- Check the hymns. Ensure that whoever is to announce them has the correct details especially where some verses are to be omitted.
- Check the candles are lit. (The Paschal Candle, representing the risen Christ among his people, is traditionally lit first, and all others lit from it.)
- Check that the stewards/sides people are present.
- Check that the person leading the intercessions is in attendance and be ready to lead the intercessions if s/he does not arrive.
What are Intercessions (and what aren’t Intercessions)?
The Intercessions are where the intercessor leads the congregation in prayer, offering thanksgiving and making petitions. Intercessions are addressed to God, not to the congregation.
The Intercessions are not:
- Notices or news to the congregation
- Telling people what God is really thinking
- Telling people what you think (about the latest hot topic!)
- A sermon (or telling what you thought the preacher ought to have said!)
- Your personal private prayers.
Can Liturgical Assistants conduct funeral services?
A Liturgical Assistant may be authorised to conduct funeral services. This ministry is particularly important in country areas where the clergy may not be readily available to conduct funeral services.
The licence requires that a cassock and surplice should be worn by the Liturgical Assistant (Diocesan Handbook, Section B.13.18 – see section 4.1 of this Handbook).
Is there an age limitation on a person being a Liturgical Assistant?
There is no age limitation on a person being a Liturgical Assistant.
What are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to reading the scriptures?
Things to do:
- Prepare by practising.
- Be in place to read in plenty of time.
- Be yourself and be comfortable.
- Read in your natural voice.
- Bring the reading alive for the listener.
Things to avoid:
- Reading too fast and reading too slowly.
- Correcting minor mistakes.
- Touching the microphone.
- Getting too close to the microphone.
Is safety a consideration when taking Holy Communion to the sick and the housebound?
Yes. Check that the person being visited is known to your parish and that it will be safe for you to visit. If the person is not already known to the parish, consider options for increased safety (e.g., take another parish person with you). Advise your parish priest of the arrangements (time and location) and preferably carry a mobile phone. With a hospital call, you trust the hospital and you report to staff on entry. Carry a note of identification/authorization from the parish.
Because this type of ministry involves working with and ministering to vulnerable people, often in private settings such as a home, or a single-bed room in hospital/hostel, it is necessary for the parish priest to ensure that those Liturgical Assistants who go in the name of the church have been carefully selected and have received appropriate training.