Rev. Neal:  This question is in regard to a local Part-time church where the pastor has her degree but is not ordained.  In our church we typically celebrate the Eucharist on the first Sunday of the month, but our pastor will be away the first Sunday of May; one of our Lay Speakers will be preaching that Sunday.  Can the Pastor consecrate the bread and wine the week prior and then the Lay Speaker serve Communion on the first Sunday?  If no, can the bread and wine be taken to a another fully connectional, ordained UM pastor in the area prior to worship and then the Lay Speaker serve to the congregation?  Thank you for your time and response.

Dear John,

The ordination status of your Pastor is irrelevant in this circumstance: the question is one of how one makes provision for the Sacrament when there isn't a duly authorized or ordained minister present in worship.  Going out the gate it must be recognized that the Lay Speaker chosen to preach that Sunday is not authorized to preside at the Eucharist.  By the Discipline, only an Elder or the Local Pastor who has been appointed to the church by the Bishop is authorized the preside at the Eucharist.

The 2008 General Conference passed legislation which would have authorized your pastor to consecrate the elements before leaving, and then the Lay Speaker or other Lay members distribute the elements on Sunday morning.  However, in 2009 the Judicial Council ruled that the use of elements that have been pre-consecrated as you describe, for the purpose you describe, is a violation of our Eucharistic Doctrine.  Reserved Sacrament is only to be used to commune people at home or in hospitals or nursing homes, and from elements that have been consecrated in the course of a regular worship service and are left over from that service ... and in a timely manner (within a day or two of the service).  Consecrating elements outside of a worship service for use in a worship service a week hence is not valid in the UMC.  This would also apply for having an Elder in another church prior-consecrate the elements to be used on the 1st Sunday.

The better course of action in your case is to not have Communion on the First Sunday of May.  Instead, have communion early (on April 28) or late (on May 12).  There is no regulation or guideline that says that you may only have Communion on the First Sunday of the Month, and there is every justification for having Communion on the Sunday when an Elder or the appointed Licensed Local Pastor is present.

If you really want to have Communion on the First Sunday of May, the only option available to you is to have an Elder come and preside at the Table.  Any retired Elder, or an Elder serving as an Associate, or an Elder in a beyond-the-local-church appointment may preside.

I hope this helps. Please write again if you have further questions or would like clarification on this matter.


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Rev. Gregory S. Neal


I can answer questions dealing with all issues of United Methodist Doctrine and Wesleyan-Arminian Theology. In particular I can answer questions dealing with the Sacraments and other liturgical and worship-oriented questions. I can also answer questions dealing with the form, structure, and organization of the United Methodist Church and our relationship with other denominations.


I am an ordained United Methodist Elder with more than 20 years of ministerial service experience in the local Church.

I am a Clergy Member in Full Connection and have been a member of the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church since 1991. I am a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion. I am also a member of the Emmaus Community, and am currently serving as Senior Spiritual Director for the Dallas Emmaus Community. I am a member of the Order of Saint Luke in the United Methodist Church.

I have my own website:   I have written two books, "Grace Upon Grace" and "Seeking the Shepherd's Arms," both available at and in bookstores.

I have a BA in Religious Studies, History and Russian. I have an M.Div in Systematic Theology and Biblical Studies and a Ph.D in Sacramental Theology and New Testament.

Awards and Honors
Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church
Fellow of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

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