Churchy Term of the Week

“Deacon’s Mass”

A communion service led by a deacon. After the liturgy of the word, the deacon administers communion to a congregation from the reserved sacrament. The service became popular in the Episcopal Church in the 1950s and 1960s. Because the 1928 BCP did not provide for this service, many deacons made up their own liturgies. The 1979 BCP is the first Prayer Book to provide for such a service. An outline for the service is included in the Additional Directions for the Celebration of the Eucharist (BCP, p. 408). The directions make clear that the service is not one of the ordinary liturgies of the church, since its use is limited to occasions “when the services of a priest cannot be obtained.” Other preferred titles, suggested by liturgical scholar Howard E. Galley, are “Liturgy of the Presanctified” and “Liturgy of the Word and Holy Communion.” The service may be used only when a priest is unavailable and when the bishop authorizes it. Even if a priest is unavailable, the authorization is entirely in the bishop’s discretion. Many Episcopal bishops forbid the service or restrict its use to emergencies because it misrepresents the shape of the church, the eucharist, and the ordained ministry.


From Don S. Armentrout’s An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians Church Publishing Inc., 2000.

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