Eucharistic Assistant

Updated February 7, 2017

By the Rev'd Canon Ed Swayze

The Presider is the bishop/priest officiating at the Eucharist, and in this context includes the deacon who is officiating at a public service of the distribution of reserved sacrament.

Clergy function as Eucharist Assistants by virtue of their ordination.

Appointment

Eucharistic Assistants are appointed annually at a Vestry meeting by the Incumbent/Pastor and the Vestry Canon I-4 Par 7 (c). The Incumbent is in charge of the parish, normally a priest. A Parish Lay Reader is  a Eucharistic Assistant by virtue of the appointment as a Parish Lay Reader; see Ministry Description - Parish Lay Reader. 

A Eucharistic Assistant may distribute either bread or wine during a Eucharist in his or her own parish. For a lay person to take communion to the sick requires an appointment as a Shepherd.

Directions

Prior to the service the Eucharistic Assistant should wash his or her hands; see Eucharistic practice and the risk of infection.

If the Eucharistic Assistant who is scheduled is not in attendance, the Presider will ask another Eucharistic Assistant to be the Eucharistic Assistant for that service.

Once the Lord’s Prayer is said, the Eucharistic Assistant comes into the Sanctuary; the Presider gives those in the Sanctuary communion; the Presider then gives the Eucharistic Assistant the chalice and a purificator, which is a cloth used to wipe the edge of the chalice; and the Eucharistic Assistant gives the wine to those in the Sanctuary, except for the Presider. 

Normally clergy distributes the bread to the congregation and a Eucharistic Assistant distributes the wine. When the bread is given say, "The body of Christ", "The Body of Christ given for you", or "The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven." When the chalice is administered say, “The blood of Christ”, “The blood of Christ, shed for you” or, “ The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.”

To administer the chalice, the Eucharistic Assistant holds the chalice around the stem so that the person can grasp the base and tip the cup towards them. Watch the chalice and stop tipping it when the wine has come up to the person’s lips. Once the person has received the wine, the Eucharistic Assistant then wipes the chalice with the purificator and gives the chalice a 1/4 turn prior to giving the chalice to the next person.

For someone who is standing, the chalice may be passed to the person.

Once all of the congregation has received communion, the Eucharistic Assistant gives the Presider communion in both kinds.

Children/Not Receiving Communion/Receiving Bread or Wine Only

Children may receive communion with their parent’s permission.  If the Eucharistic Assistant is unsure, ask the child if he or she can answer or ask the adult accompanying the child if the child would like to receive communion. The Eucharistic Assistant distributing the wine should pay attention to the person distributing the bread to see whether the child received the bread.

An individual may not wish to receive communion,  but comes to the sanctuary rail for a blessing. To indicate that he or she does not wish to receive, he or she should cross their arms across their chest. The bishop/priest distributing the bread shall say a prayer of blessing, and a deacon or lay person shall say a prayer of assurance.

It is acceptable to receive in one kind only (bread or wine).

Some people do not wish to receive the wine. To indicate that, they may cross their arms over their chest. If a person does  not wish to receive wine, move on to the next person. Also some people follow the custom of touching the chalice but not drinking from it.

Gluten-free Bread

Gluten-free wafers are available. Congregants are requested to advise a sidesperson before the service begins if they would like one. For those known to the Presider, this is not necessary.

To avoid contamination with gluten wafers, gluten-free wafers are kept separate from gluten wafers; in individual plastic bags. The Presider should not handle a gluten-free wafer. To distribute them, they are placed on a paten by themselves. The paten is passed to the communicant and he or she takes the gluten-free wafer off of the paten.

Intincture

Some people will dip the bread in the wine, which is Intincture. Hold the chalice low enough so that the person can see the wine. The Bishop would like this practice discouraged; see New report asserts common cup is safe, Dipping can increase bacteria count in cup.

Can't Make it up to the Sanctuary Rail

If someone is unable to come to the Sanctuary Rail to receive communion, a sidesperson should let the Presider know. Once everyone has received, the Presider and a Eucharistic Assistant will go to the person and administer communion.

Spills

Use purificator to wipe up spill, a spare purificator is in burse. The burse is found on the altar; it is two pieces of cardboard covered with the same material as the veil, and a spare purificator and a veil are normally in it as well.

Used Up all of the Consecration Bread/Wine

The tabernacle is the cupboard on the Sanctuary wall that is used to store reserved sacrament (consecrated bread and wine).

Large Services

If there is a larger attendance than expected, the Presider may ask clergy or another Eucharistic Assistant to be the second Eucharistic Assistant. When a large attendance is anticipated such as Christmas Eve and Easter, two Eucharistic Assistants will be scheduled.

A second chalice will be placed on the credence table. The Presider consecrates a cruet of wine and leaves it on the altar; the Eucharist Assistant refills the chalice from it. A Clergy/Eucharistic Assistant does one row at a time, then the next Eucharistic Assistant does the following row and they alternate. Follow the Presider's instructions for who administers communion.

Too much Consecrated Bread or Wine

If consecrated bread or wine remains after communion, it is either consumed; put on the credence table covered with a white veil from the burse; or put in the private communion set. If it is set on the credence table, it is left for the Altar Guild or the clergy to look after. It will either be consumed or poured onto the ground.

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