Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thoughts on Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

I attended a workshop at Holy Trinity, Braamfontein for what we all call "Eucharistic Ministers" following the Anglican usage though technically we should use the term "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion".

Some people get very uptight about this as a priest or bishop is an Ordinary Eucharistic Minister and maybe laypeople are extraordinary in both senses!

The Church is its usual irritating, slightly condescending, self when it comes to using laypeople to distribute Holy Communion.  We as laypeople consider it a privilege but no, we are just stop gaps.  If there are sufficient priests, deacons or acolytes (usually seminarians) then laypeople may not be appointed or if already appointed must not be used.

In other words we are not in a privileged position, we are just being used  because the Church has no choice and will do without lay participation when-ever possible!  In the United States EMHC's were allowed to cleanse the vessels after Holy Communion for a period of 3 years from 2002 but it was never renewed.  I'm not sure what the rule is in South Africa.

My understanding of the use of EMHC's is that if a university chaplain wanted to use students as EMHC's because he felt that this would create more involvement and participation in the Mass his intention would be a misuse of the position.

To get back to the workshop.  I have to admit to having low expectations of these things but how wrong I was!   The workshop was run by two young people, a prospective Jesuit and the new Parish Pastoral Development Person.....and she was the one who ran the workshop.  It was based on St John's Gospel Chapter 6 and it aimed to heighten our understanding of the Eucharist.  She also sought to raise the theological level of understanding of where the Gospel came from and the audience to which it was addressed.

After small-group discussion there was a period of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church followed by practical training for those who might require it.  It was a thought provoking and yet prayerful time for all of us.

A very important aspect of the ministry of EMHC's is that there is no need for any one to have a specific skill.  There is no need to be articulate or to be able to read well.  Just an awareness of the power of Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament and an awareness of the honour of distributing Communion to the faithful.

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