Alcoholic Beverage Policy

Each church has a responsibility under Rhode Island law and has a moral responsibility of not encouraging excessive use of alcohol. The serving of alcoholic beverages at church functions must be limited and closely controlled as follows:

1.    Care will be exercised by the congregation or sponsoring group to ensure that all alcohol usage on the church or diocesan premises is in accordance with appropriate state and local laws and ordinances, including:

a.    require proper identification as defined in Title 3 for all individuals who appear to look thirty (30) years old or younger who order alcoholic beverages (acceptable IDs are any state driver’s license, a Rhode Island state ID card, a military card and a passport)

b.    not serve more than two (2) drinks at a time;
c.    not serve shots or triple alcoholic drinks;
d.    not serve visibly intoxicated individuals;
e.    not serve alcoholic beverages for more than a five (5) hour period per event;

a.    only allow a licensee, and/or its agents and employees to serve alcoholic beverages at an event (obtain and file a copy of their license and liability insurance in advance of the event);

f.    require that a licensed vendor deliver and remove all alcohol and that the bartender employed by the licensee be certified by a nationally recognized alcoholic beverage server-training program

These apply whether alcohol is served by the church or an organization related to the church or is a BYOB (bring your own bottle) event.

2.    Any and all necessary and reasonable precautions shall be taken to supervise alcohol usage to insure that no individual is over served and that no individual under the legal drinking age is served. Dram shop laws apply in Rhode Island meaning that the server and/or the licensee who sells or serves alcohol to a minor or to an already intoxicated person may be held responsible for any damage or injuries that the person may cause as a result of consuming alcohol.

3.    Any event where alcohol is served will discontinue service at least 30 minutes before the end of the event to ensure that attendees do not drink and drive. Due diligence will be observed to prevent anyone who appears impaired from driving.

4.    Alcohol usage will be supervised by the group hosting the event in consultation with the priest-in-charge and Vestry or Bishop’s Committee.

5.    No alcohol may be served at any youth or youth sponsored event. All events with youth in attendance must communicate the “no alcohol or drugs” policy to all attendees and take appropriate precautions to ensure that two unrelated adults are always present and attentive in all rooms and outdoor sites where youth might obtain or consume alcohol they find on the premises or bring with them.

a.    The Diocese of Rhode Island, Policies for the Protection of Children and Youth (January 1, 2007) states: “Behavioral Standards.  For all programs and activities for children and youth, prohibit (i) issuance to children or youth of non-sacramental alcohol, illegal drugs or pornography, (ii) consumption of non-sacramental alcohol or illegal drugs or misuse legal drugs, (iii) participation of any adult who is under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs or misusing legal drugs (iv) illegal behavior of any type at any activity for children or youth (v) participation by an adult in any sexual, romantic, illicit or secretive relationship or conduct with any children or youth, (vi) discussion of sexual activities or fantasies, unless in the context of an approved program or the sacrament of confession, (vii) corporal punishment, (viii) smoking and (ix) firearms or other concealed weapons.”

6.    It is advisable to lock up the communion wine and not store any alcoholic beverage on the premises before or after an event and take steps to make sure that no youth have access to the sacristy keys.

7.    When alcohol is served, food and an equally attractive and accessible non-alcoholic beverage will be provided. “Equally attractive” generally means something “festive” rather than merely a beverage that is not alcoholic.

8.    Whenever there is a charge for an event where alcohol is served, the fee for the event generally will include the cost of all beverages. The sale of individual drinks or tickets for drinks are not permitted under Rhode Island law unless you have a license. In most cases the license will be a Class F (one time license) which has a minor fee – regulations and fees vary by location so check your local town or city license agency for details.

a.    Class F license. – A retailer’s Class F license authorizes the holder of the license to keep for sale and to sell malt and vinous beverages on the premises, described in the license, at retail for consumption on the premises where sold for a period of nineteen (19) hours, including Sunday. The license may be issued to religious organizations, state non-business corporations and political organizations only and the sale of malt and vinous beverages may take place between the hours of six o’clock (6:00) a.m. and one o’clock (1:00) a.m. on the following day.

9.    Outside groups hosting an event must receive the approval of the priest-in-charge to serve alcohol and must agree, in writing, to observe all state laws and the norms in this policy.

10.    Any outside group or group advertising to the public that serves alcohol on church premises will be required to obtain an event rider from an insurance company that lists the church as a named insured. An outside group is defined as any group not directly sponsored by the church. Advertising to the public is defined as publicity through radio, newspaper, television, website, email, social media or signage to induce the public to attend the event.

11.    Each Vestry or Bishop’s Committee is urged to develop and publicize church guidelines for use of alcohol on church property. This policy can be used as a template that can be adapted for local use.

Things to remember:

  • Any driver who is chemically tested and returns a blood-alcohol content level that is .08 percent or more is considered ‘per se intoxicated.
  • If a driver has a chemical test showing a BAC level that is .15 percent or more over the legal limit, that driver is subject to more severe punishment by the courts.
  • ‘Zero tolerance laws’ mean that a driver under 21 years of age will face DUI penalties even if the chemical test indicates the driver has only a .02 percent BAC level.
  • Adults who are present when youth drink may be liable to prosecution even if they did not provide or serve the alcohol. Adults supervising youth must exercise vigilance to ensure that alcohol and drugs are not being used—especially in areas outside of the main activity area.
  • Any person over the age of eighteen (18) who is convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, other drugs, or a combination of these, while a child under the age of thirteen (13) years was present as a passenger in the motor vehicle when the offense was committed may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than one year and further shall not be entitled to the benefit of suspension or deferment of this sentence.

Adopted Diocesan Council
September 11, 2013



The General Convention of the Episcopal Church also addressed this issue in a resolution in 2015:

Resolved, That the 78th General Convention acknowledge The Episcopal Church’s long-standing tolerance for the use of alcohol which, in some cases, has contributed to its misuse, and has undermined a climate of wholeness and holiness for all; that our Church culture too often avoids hard conversations about alcohol use, and the role of forgiveness and compassion in healing and recovery; and that The Episcopal Church now commits to create a new normal in our relationship with alcohol. We aspire to be a place in which conversations about alcohol, substance misuse, or addiction are not simply about treatment but about renewal, justice, wholeness, and healing. We affirm that Recovery Ministries of The Episcopal Church has long been and continues to be a valuable resource for this work; and be it further

Resolved, That the 78th Convention adopt the following policy on alcohol and other substance misuse and encourage dioceses, congregations, seminaries, schools, young adult ministries, and affiliated institutions to update their policies on the use of alcohol and other substances with the potential for misuse. These policies should consider the following:

1. The Church must provide a safe and welcoming environment for all people, including people in recovery.

2. All applicable federal, state and local laws should be obeyed, including those governing the serving of alcoholic beverages to minors.

3. Some dioceses and congregations may decide not to serve alcohol at events or gatherings. Others may decide to permit a limited use of alcoholic beverages at church-sponsored events. Both can be appropriate if approached mindfully.

4. When alcohol is served, it must be monitored and those showing signs of intoxication must not be served. Whenever alcohol is served, the rector, vicar, or priest-in-charge must appoint an adult to oversee its serving. That adult must not drink alcoholic beverages during the time of his or her execution of his or her responsibilities. If hard liquor is served, a certified server is required.

5. Serving alcoholic beverages at congregational events where minors are present is strongly discouraged. If minors are present, alcohol must be served at a separate station that is monitored at all times to prevent underage drinking.

6. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages must be clearly labeled as such. Food prepared with alcohol does not need to be labeled provided the alcohol is completely evaporated by the cooking process; however, it is recommended that even in this case the use of alcohol in cooking be noted on a label.

7. Whenever alcohol is served, appealing non-alcoholic alternatives must always be offered with equal prominence and accessibility.

8. The serving of alcoholic beverages at church events should not be publicized as an attraction of the event, e.g. “wine and cheese reception,” “cocktail party,” and “beer and wine tasting.”

9. Ministries inside or outside of congregations will make certain that alcohol consumption is not the focus of the ministry and that drinking alcohol is not an exclusively normative activity.

10. Food must be served when alcohol is present.

11. The groups or organizations sponsoring the activity or event at which alcoholic beverages are served must have permission from the clergy or the vestry. Such groups or organizations must also assume responsibility for those persons who might become intoxicated and must provide alternative transportation for anyone whose capacity to drive may be impaired. Consulting with liability insurance carriers is advised.

12. Recognizing the effects of alcohol as a mood-altering drug, alcoholic beverages shall not be served when the business of the Church is being conducted.

13. Clergy shall consecrate an appropriate amount of wine when celebrating the Eucharist and perform ablutions in a way that does not foster or model misuse.

14. We encourage clergy to acknowledge the efficacy of receiving the sacrament in one kind and consider providing non-alcoholic wine.; and be it further

Resolved, That, mindful of the emerging legalization of other addictive substances and the increasing rise of addiction, the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church provide for the ready availability, implementation, and continuing development of this policy church-wide, in consultation and coordination with Recovery Ministries of The Episcopal Church.