Posted by: AJ the Irish Lass | June 18, 2007

How Should Clergy Be Addressed/Referred to and Who May Receive Communion?

Since these are common questions which require shorter responses, I have condensed these into one article:

1. Why Are Your Ministers Called Priests?

The word priest comes from the Greek presbyter, which means “elder”. A priest is usually the leader of a parish. The term presbyter was used in the early Church times to distinguish elders or priests from bishops, or overseers (episkopos) and deacons ministers with a servant ministry (diakonos). The term pastor is also used in reference to the clergy sometimes.

However, Episcopalians do not customarily refer to their clergy as simply “preachers” because preaching is just one function of the ordained ministry. Also worth noting is that laypeople may be licensed to preach, however, this does not make them a member of the clergy.

Although the term minister is used to describe all three orders of ministry, it is usually not used in reference to a member of the clergy, because, by definition, all baptized persons are considered ministers, while the clergy are set apart leaders, in the following of the Apostles.

2. How Do I Address Your Clergy?

This may vary from parish to parish. Many parishes address their clergy by Father or Mother, while some clergy may prefer to be addressed by their first names, and Pastor is also used by some. A bishop is usually addressed as Bishop or by their first name.

Episcopal clergy are not typically addressed as Reverend, because Reverend is part of a proper title, such as the Reverend Christine Hoeller, or The Right Reverend Robert M. Poll. If in doubt about how to address a clergyperson, feel free to ask him or her.

3. Can My Friend From Another Church Receive Communion?

If your friend from another denomination has been baptized, with water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Ghost), and their own denomination allows them to do so, they may. Many parishes have an open communion policy, however, allowing people to receive regardless of status.

If your friend has not received Trinitarian baptism, or their church discourages them to receive in another denomination, they are welcome to go to the altar rail and receive a blessing. All they have to do is make a X over their chest by placing each hand on the opposite shoulder to indicate they’re not receiving the sacrament, and the priest will give them a blessing. 


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