Parishes must keep a record of those who are authorised to distribute Holy Communion. An Annual Return form should be returned to the Bishop’s Office – Auckland Castle - by 31 December each year.
Authorisation to distribute Holy Communion
Bishop of Durham’s Guidelines
This paper outlines the Bishop of Durham’s agreement to delegate the power to authorise lay people to distribute Holy Communion to the Incumbent or Priest in Charge of a parish. From September 2017, parishes are no longer be required to obtain authorisation via the Bishop’s Office, but are granted authorisation locally.
- Currently if a parish wishes to authorise lay people to distribute Holy Communion either in church, in people’s homes or in care homes / hospitals, the parish, having obtained the agreement of the PCC, is required to send their names to the Bishop’s office and ask the Bishop to grant authorisation for each person.
- This authorisation is valid for a period of 3 years.
- This authorisation does not require a DBS check (in fact, it is not permissible to carry out a DBS check for the role of “Communion Assistant”).
- However, if such lay people are visiting people in their own homes on a regular basis, and the adults they are visiting are vulnerable (due to age, illness or disability) and in receipt of personal, social or health care, they will qualify as pastoral visitors. They must have an enhanced DBS check. Following receipt of the DBS check, authorisation can be granted.
- The above arrangements are governed by Canon BI2.3 and, up until I October 2015, by the Regulations on the administration of Holy Communion made by the Church Assembly in November 1969.
- The Bishop expects that all who are authorised for this ministry undertake appropriate training overseen by the Incumbent / Priest in Charge.
What has changed?
- In July 2015 the General Synod resolved that Amending Canon No.35 be made, promulged and executed. The effect of this is to amend paragraph 3 of Canon B12 such that the requirement for the Bishop to grant authorisation to distribute Holy Communion is removed. Read more here.
- To govern these new arrangements The Administration of Holy Communion Regulations 2015 were made by General Synod, and came into force on I October 2015. Read more here:
What does this now mean for the Diocese of Durham?
- In short, the Bishop has decided to delegate the power to authorise lay people to distribute Holy Communion to the Incumbent or Priest in Charge of a parish. This means that from September 2017 parishes will no longer be required to obtain authorisation via the Bishop’s Office, but will be able to grant authorisation locally.
- There are, of course, some guidelines which parishes need to follow, based on the 2015 Regulations:
- A person to be authorised to distribute communion must be a regular communicant of the Church of England and be in good standing.
- A person may not be authorised unless the Incumbent / Priest in Charge has obtained the consent of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) (unless the person to be authorised is a pupil of a church school requesting authorisation for distributing communion at services in the school. In this case the consent of the head teacher is required).
- A child* may be authorised. However, this is only after he/she has been admitted to Holy Communion in Accordance with the Admission of Baptised Children to Holy Communion Regulations 2006. To minimise safeguarding risks, children are only able to be authorised to distribute communion in church and school, and not for home communions.
- A person should not be authorised where the person granting the authorisation is aware of safeguarding concerns relating to him or her (e.g. if the person is subject to a safeguarding agreement).
- If there is a wish to authorise an adult to distribute the sacrament at home Communions or in institutions, before authorisation the House of Bishop’s practice guidance on Safer Recruitment must be complied with.
- Authorised adults who will be visiting vulnerable people should be aware of relevant safeguarding policies, have undergone appropriate safeguarding training and have an up to date DBS before authorisation is granted.
- When authorisation is granted, this should be marked liturgically in the main Sunday service of Holy Communion. A suggested order of service is provided.
- The Incumbent or Priest in Charge must keep under review the authorisations given in the parish. The simplest way to do this is to make authorisations time limited. The Bishop expects that people will be authorised for 3 years at a time. (The Incumbent or Priest in Charge may wish to present the authorised person with an appropriate certificate, stating when authorisation comes to an end.)
- Proper records should be kept of those who are authorised, and parishes should complete an annual return at the end of each year, detailing authorisations granted. An Annual Return form should be returned to the Bishop’s Office – Auckland Castle by 31 December each year.
- In a vacancy, the authority of the Incumbent / Priest in Charge to grant authorisation passes to the Area Dean.
- In the case of the Cathedral, the authority to grant authorisation rests with the Dean, with the consent of the Cathedral Chapter.
- As previously, the Bishop expects that all who are authorised for this ministry will undergo appropriate training overseen by the Incumbent / Priest in Charge.
*Please note the definition of a Child is a person under the age of 18 years.
A note on DBS checks
• General Synod November 2015 group of sessions. Bishop Paul Butler’s response is below:
“In short, an individual engaged in the act of giving communion will not be eligible for a DBS check even if the administrant is privately giving communion to someone who is housebound or in a care home. That said, if, for example, the administrant is visiting the housebound or care home frequently (once a week or more) or intensively (4 times or more in any 30 day period) and whilst he/she is giving communion he/she gives advice or guidance, he/she would be eligible for an enhanced DBS check. Alternatively if, as part of the role, the administrant helps with shopping or handling money he/she would be in regulated activity and therefore, eligible for an enhanced check (together with a check of the barred list.)’’