Ministry of the Laity in the Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is committed to inspiring every person – both lay and ordained – to grow spiritually, and to equipping leaders to lead well. It is the responsibility of the Commission on Ministry to assist the Bishop of the diocese “in enlisting and selecting persons” for ordained ministry. That part of the commission’s work is commonly understood. But the Commission is also charged with assisting in developing, training, and affirming lay ministries. We feel that this important work begins with a careful exploration and understanding of our common calling to the Ministry of the Baptized.
In the waters of baptism, we are lovingly adopted by God into God’s family, which we call the Church. We are given God’s own life to share and reminded that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ. Holy Baptism, which can be performed through pouring of water or immersion in it, marks a formal entrance to the congregation and wider Church. The candidates for the sacrament make a series of vows, including an affirmation of the Baptismal Covenant, and are baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are marked as Christ’s own forever, having “clothed [themselves] with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
The baptismal covenant, found on p. 304-5 of The Book of Common Prayer (1979), is a small catechism for use during the rite of initiation into the Church. Armentrout and Slocum, in An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, note that the baptismal covenant “is widely regarded as the normative statement of what it means to follow Christ” (p. 37); in these questions and answers, the congregation expresses the ways each of the faithful will live their faith both inside and outside the church walls. The first four questions are patterned on the Apostles’ Creed, with the liturgy’s celebrant asking the people about their beliefs in each of the members of the Trinity, along with a concise understanding of their natures. Following these questions, the covenant includes five questions regarding how we, as Christians, are called to live out our faith: with firm commitment and a reliance on God’s help.
Further information and resources for exploring a call to lay ministry can be found in the pages linked below:
Discerning Your Gifts
If you are considering how to find or deepen a vocation, consider these questions:
- What activities in your life do you consider life-giving?
- What activities make you feel closer to humankind? To God?
- Where do your gifts meet the world’s needs?
For more resources on the discernment of gifts, click here.
Discerning a Call to Lay Leadership
The call of a lay person does not necessarily take place within the walls of the Church. In fact, we can identify four major areas of lay ministry, both inside and outside the Church. For a further description of these areas and how they impact discernng a call to lay ministry, click here.
The Laity in the Life, Worship, and Leadership of the Church
Baptismal ministry can take many forms. Lay people, along with bishops, priests, and deacons, are ministers of the Church. It is the vital ministry of all lay persons “to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.” Book of Common Prayer (1979), p. 855.
For a description of how the ministry of lay people is a major contributor to our life in community in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, click here.
Resources for Lay Leadership Development
For a list of books, educational opportunities, and other resources to develop the skills of the lay minister, click here.
More is Coming!
The Diocese of Los Angeles is in the process of developing more resources for discernment of gifts and call to ministry. We anticipate this will include new programs for the training, development and affirming of both lay and ordained ministry. So please stay tuned for future announcements as these resources and programs become available. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, please contact one of the members of the Commission on Ministry.