Presidency at the sacraments

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A training course for authorised elders and lay preachers


It has been the practice of the United Reformed Church to authorise elders and lay preachers to occasionally preside at the sacraments of Communion and baptism. In 2016 General Assembly agreed several resolutions from the faith and order committee to ensure consistency of practice and support for such presidency. This included a resolution that there should be an agreed syllabus for the preparation of ordained elders and lay preachers to be authorised to preside (resolution 18).

The course, Presidency at the Sacraments, is now available and is provided through the synods who will make arrangements for the material to be delivered locally, or in ways appropriate to local situations. Please contact your synod office or synod Training and Development Officer for more details.

Learning outcomes

After participating in the training course, those authorised will feel more confident to preside at both Communion and baptisms, and will feel confident that they share best practice with others so authorised throughout the United Reformed Church.

Presidency link

Learning outputs

Authorised elders will understand:

  • The nature of authorisation within Church order
  • The nature of sacrament
  • Sacraments and the Bible
  • The purpose of the sacraments
  • The theology of the sacraments
  • Symbolism of the sacraments
  • Liturgies for sacraments
  • Practicalities of presidency

The course outline

The course follows a blended learning format and is designed to be flexible in its use. Face-to-face sessions (which might be a series of evenings or a single day session if that is more appropriate) are supplemented by the reading material that is available on this site.   The course trainers are encouraged to cover all the elements of the training, while being flexible in how the face-to-face sessions are arranged.

The material which is available for downloading here will be used as preparation for and during the face-to-face sessions.  They include the URC's theological and historical understanding of the Sacraments, guidance concerning Baptism and the Basis of Union (PDF | 270kb) , material about children and communion (PDF | 920kb) and a practical checklist for presiding (PDF | 183kb).

Before the first face-to-face session

Questions to consider (PDF | 191kb) also available online for download. These have been designed for use before the first face-to-face sessions, to allow participants to think about their own experience of the sacraments – both as worshippers and, if relevant, as presidents.

Session material
Face-to-face sessions will expand on the material available online, will draw in participant experience, and will introduce new material on the nature of authorisation, for both Communion and baptism. Sessions can be held either on one day, or spaced out as desired by the group and by the trainer.

After face-to-face reflection
Participants may like to keep a journal as they start thinking about and training to preside at Communion and baptisms. After the course has ended these journal entries could be used to reflect on presidency and it may be appropriate for a learning group to discuss these entries and reflections together.

A list of further resources is available here (PDF |172kb).

If you need futher information about celebrating the Sacraments, please contact your Training or Development Officer. 


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