Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 250,000 readers More than 30,000 links Updated every Sunday
Will you help support
Anglicans Online?

The Paypal logotype

Noted This Week
Sites new to AO

News Centre
News archive

News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us by email
Be notified each week

Start here
Anglicans believe...
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
Hong Kong
New Zealand
South Africa
Sri Lanka

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
About our logo

Our search engine

Hallo again to all.

Church attendance is decreasing in the developed world. Anglican churches are no exception. Yes, we've seen the periodic joyous announcements that attendance is good at Christmas and Easter services, and that there is better Sunday attendance at worship services in cathedrals than ever before. But the world we live in is becoming more secular. We know job-seekers who were offered employment interviews on a Sunday morning. Many people have forgotten the very concept of churches. Fewer people are attending parish churches, and those who do attend are, overall, giving less money.

Our travels take us to many cities around the world. When possible, we make a point of attending an Anglican service in a parish at our destination. This has enabled us over the years to visit more parishes than most bishops. We can't help but observe, compare, and analyse.

In past decades, most parishes had at least two salaried ordained clergy. Perhaps a rector and assistant rector or a vicar and a curate. Clergy pay is rarely impressive, but it has been enough to survive. Currently it is unusual to find a smaller parish with more than one paid clergy-person. Sometimes there are non-stipendiary clergy associated with a parish, sometimes not. But mostly we see the priest who leads a parish having to go it alone.

Preaching is hard. Ask any person who needs to preach every week, and you will get an earful. Perhaps bad preaching is easier, but there are few more effective means of shrinking church attendance than offering bad preaching every week. Clergy we know who are considered to be good preachers often spend 2 or 3 days preparing a sermon. If it is important for a clergy-person to remain sane, then they must be able to take a break now and then, whether for weddings or funerals in their family, a brief holiday trip, or a dread disease. Someone must fill in for them.

Even the Diocese of Sydney forbids a lay person from presiding over communion; an ordained priest or presbyter is required. But in most dioceses of the Anglican world, lay persons can be licensed to preach. Almost all of the provinces of the Anglican Communion delegate decisions about lay preaching to diocesan bishops. Those bishops generally have a licensing process for lay preachers, and rules to be followed. A priest can choose to let a licensed lay person preach.

Recently we have noted a significant increase in the amount of lay preaching in the various parishes where we find ourselves. The quality of their preaching has been excellent. We would imagine that any particular lay person would preach only once every year or so unless the parish priest is seriously ill. The lay preacher can have days or weeks to prepare a sermon, and most dioceses require that a priest review a lay sermon before it is delivered.

If a parish has money, it can pay for a supply priest to fill in for a missing or recovering rector or vicar, but most parishes don't have money nowadays; lay preaching is an economical solution. Asking a retired priest to preside over communion at a service where a lay person preaches is much less of a demand on that retiree's time and energy. Judicious use of lay preachers seems to us to be a good way to keep up the quality in a shrinking parish while not overloading its solo clergy-person.

Can you tell us about your experiences with lay preachers or lay preaching?

See you next week.

Our signature
All of us at Anglicans Online

18 November 2018

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2018 Society of Archbishop Justus
. Please address all spam to