Lay Worship Leaders

Diocesan Guidelines for Licensed Worship Leaders

According to Title III, Canon 4 of The Constitution and Canons of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, 2018 Of Licensed Ministries:

Sec. 1
A confirmed communicant in good standing or, in extraordinary circumstances, subject to guidelines established by the Bishop, a communicant in good standing, may be licensed by the Ecclesiastical Authority to serve as Pastoral Leader, Worship Leader, Preacher, Eucharistic Minister, Eucharistic Visitor, Evangelist, or Catechist.

Sec. 2
The Member of the Clergy or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation or other community of faith may request the Ecclesiastical Authority with jurisdiction to license persons within that congregation or other community of faith to exercise such ministries. The license shall be issued for a period of time to be determined under Canon III.4.1(a) and may be renewed.

Sec. 4
A Worship Leader is a lay person who regularly leads public worship under the direction of the Member of the Clergy or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation or other faith community.

Steps for Licensing:

  1. Letter of recommendation by Rector/PIC/Vicar
  2. Application – Licensed Lay Ministries
  3. Bexley Seabury Seminary Worship Leader Training Registration
  4. Safe Church Training Modules for Worship Leader
  5. Background Check – Active Screening Faith

Once these steps are completed, please submit application with supporting materials to

The diocese will reimburse $150.00 half of the cost of the $300.00 Bexley Seabury Worship Leader class-please submit receipt to 

Licensed Worship Leaders are not paid, and the Bishop prefers that they serve as Worship Leaders only in their own congregation.

The Bishop will license a lay person at the request of the priest in charge. In order to be considered for licensing, a lay person must be a confirmed communicant in good standing. The license is issued for three years and may require additional training before renewal. Lay worship leader applicants are asked to complete the training offered by Bexley-Seabury Seminary, the details of which will be found here. The Diocese will contribute to the required tuition, with the remainder to be split between the parish and applicant.

A licensed Worship Leader may read a sermon from Sermons that Work, the approved resource for The Episcopal Church,,  a sermon from a resource that has been approved by their priest, or occasionally offer a personal reflection approved by their priest.  Only a licensed Preacher may compose their own sermon and preach regularly in public worship, and the process to prepare for that ministry may be found here


Bishop’s Message – What Comes Next?

Governor Raimondo and her staff are talking about plans to start relaxing restrictions here in Rhode Island and allowing more of us to return to a sense of normalcy. She described the process as more akin to “turning a dial” than to “flipping a switch”. It’s a good analogy. What happens next is going to have to be carefully considered and then watched to see what the consequences are of decisions to start relaxing restrictions on commerce and movement.
That’s going to be true in the Church as well. No one in leadership in the Episcopal Church has had to navigate a set of circumstances like these. When this began in March, a wise priest here in Rhode Island suggested that what we needed to do wasn’t that different than what we did when we were facing a series of blizzards. And that was true, for a month or so. But now, as we enter our 10th week of mitigation, and with all we have done, having just reached the place where we’re essentially treading water, it’s clear that this is going to be a much harder and more challenging situation than most or all of us imagined.
Re-opening our congregations for worship is something that will happen gradually. We want to keep our community and ourselves as safe as we can. And we’re not as pressured as we might have thought. Thanks be to God, Episcopalians have continued to worship weekly; clergy have gathered, taught and cared for their people; and the work of prayer and service that is our spiritual discipline has continued. We miss being with each other, we miss worshiping together around the altar, and we all desperately miss the sacramental sharing of the Lord’s table. But we are finding in our exile that God is still present, and life is managing to move along somehow.
What will our plan look like? I’m not sure yet of the particulars. Canon Dena and I are reaching out to people around the state to work with us on what the steps will look like. Other dioceses have announced plans, or have announced next steps, and we’re gathering all of those and looking closely at them. Some of them have good ideas that will work in our context, and within the restrictions that the Rhode Island Department of Health is placing on us in the short term. (Some of the plans are really meant for very different contexts and don’t have much that we can use for guidance.) I’m planning to have specific details ready to announce before the end of May.
But beyond worship and buildings, I want to ask you to be thoughtful about how we care for one another. I’ve asked clergy to be very careful about inadvertently spreading the virus by entering homes when there are alternative ways to care for people. I’m encouraging people to use phone or video calls to provide pastoral care, to lead conversations about funeral planning, wedding preparation etc. Some of our clergy are older and were already serving in ways that went beyond what we had a reasonable right to request. And in this moment, when their age becomes a significant risk factor (along with other factors in some cases) we need to care for the people who care for us. Please be understanding when clergy cannot join you at home. Please recognize that we are not able to make hospital calls in many instances (because of the medical guidance we are getting). Please understand that funerals will look very different for a season.
All of this will, we hope, be over by this time next year. And there will be, God willing, a season of restoration and resurrection for all of us. But in this moment, we will need to be careful, cautious and brave all at the same time. God is with us and will be with us as we pick our way through this difficult terrain — as we will be with those suffering and disheartened in our community. That’s our calling and our ministry together right now.

Workshop materials from Leadership Institute on March 23, 2019

A ‘Parish Legacy Society’ as Planned Giving
How to create and nurture a Legacy Society, honoring those who name your church in an estate, a will or trust. Hear success stories about this and learn some innovative approaches to planned giving.

Click here for Planned Giving and other resources

Vestry 101
So … you are a new member of the vestry! What ARE your responsibilities related to the vision, leadership and fiduciary health of your church? Get support and training to become wise and empowered leaders, with practical nuts and bolts to make your vestry experience effective – and even fun!

Episcopal Church Foundation- Vital Practices

Roles and Responsibilities of Elected Leaders

_Vestry_101 Vestry Papers Issue

Improving your church’s online presence
What are prospective visitors looking for when they check out your church online? Learn about current best practices for your congregation’s Facebook page and website, and some things to avoid.  We’ll evaluate examples of great and not-so great websites in other parts of the country.

Wellness check for your church’s online presence

Online assets ownership worksheet

Resources for enhancing your online presence

A sample media and video policy with release form

Copyright Guidelines for Churches

Photo Release Template

Wardens Face Time with Bishop Knisely
Senior and Junior wardens, receive guidance and support about this crucial lay leadership office in our changing churches. What IS your role – as chief ecclesiastical officers – with the congregation, clergy and staff?

Show Me the Money: Old and New Guidelines for Treasurers
Church treasurers, you are not alone – so don’t do it alone! Money managers: Learn healthy practices of transparency and fiduciary responsibility essential to being a safe church. Also find out about potential sources of revenue — grants, loans and diocesan resources.

Click this link for Resources

HR: Hiring, Firing, Retiring … and Everything in Between
Hiring, firing and retiring can be done professionally and with grace. This session features education and troubleshooting for church leaders in the basics of personnel and human resource management for church staff.

Episcopal Church Foundation-Vital Practices

Employee Management Checklist

Model_Personnel_Handbook_for_Parishes — from the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

Human Resources List

Community-Building in an Age of Isolation and Division
Now, more than ever, our church has something urgently-needed and beautiful to offer society. How might we build new forms of intentional community and fellowship to offer healing to a divided world? Learn some fun ideas to bring people together and have a ball!

All Our Children-Partnerships between Church and Schools

Community Garden Help – URI

Blessing Boxes

Pastoral Care for Baby-Boomers and More
Pastoral care, with appropriate training and guidance, is a ministry of all disciples of Christ. Learn how to create, nurture and equip healthy congregational care teams. Train lay leaders now to meet the needs of aging “boomers” – and all generations.

Lay Pastoral Care Resources

Starting a Lay Pastoral Care Ministry Team

Memory Cafes

Eucharistic Visitors  (NOTE: order this resource at, select “pay by check,” use in your church name and address — the staff will see that you are a RI church and will zero it out so you can just ignore the invoice. This only works for the Episcopal Churches in RI. Call 800-941-2218 if you have questions or concerns.

Publicizing and organizing events in the digital age
What’s the difference between digital and paper-based approaches to publicizing events, and how can they work together? What determines what events get publicized in diocesan publications?  Bring examples of particularly successful and creative strategies you’ve used to add to our discussion.

Church event publicity

Church-wide Canons

Canons are the written rules that provide a code of laws for the governance of the church. The canons of the Episcopal Church are enacted by the General Convention.

Canons of the Episcopal Church may only be enacted, amended, or repealed by concurrent resolution of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops at General Convention.

The canons of the Episcopal Church are organized by titles or sections concerning Organization and Administration, Worship, Ministry, Ecclesiastical Discipline, and General Provisions.

DOWNLOAD the Episcopal Church Canons 2022

Photo Release Template

Before that picture is included in your newsletter, added to your church’s website or posted on FaceBook, Instagram, YouTube, etc., what should church leaders be aware of?

There are two issues involved when it comes to pictures and video. The first one is ownership of intellectual property and the second is right to privacy.

Who Owns That Picture?

When someone takes a picture (or video), they own those images or video. However, if they are a paid employee of your church or the diocese and take pictures or shoot a video while they are working, the church owns their work and the copyright to it. This is because it is considered a work made for hire. (Note: This applies to other intellectual property such as sermons, articles in the newsletter, meditations, etc.)

If you recruit a volunteer to take pictures for the church and you want to use the pictures (or video) you can either ask them to sign an agreement ahead of time giving the rights to the church or just giving the church permission to use the image. The advantage to getting the full rights is you control the image and it prevents the photographer from coming back later and asking for payment or saying you can’t use their image in the way you want to. You would usually give them the right to use it for personal use, but not for any other use. If the volunteer photographer retains the right to their image and gives the church the right to use it, you might find the same image being used by the volunteer in a way that reflects badly on the church. So you at least will want the volunteer to let you know ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.

The Right to Privacy

The second issue regarding your church using pictures and videos is the right to privacy.  Generally consent must be given before someone’s image can be published or broadcast. The only exception is when an image they appear in can be considered news or in a public “crowd” (such as a worship service).  If you publish that picture of a cute kid and didn’t get the child’s parent to sign a photo release, you could be sued by that child’s parent. Be especially careful around foster children (who are protected by law) and visitors (who are more likely to be offended by showing up in one of your church photos than a member might be).

The need for a photo release applies to employees and volunteers — even if that volunteer photographer took the photo and didn’t sign the copyright over to the church. The church is liable because the employee or volunteer was serving as an agent of the church. And that employee or volunteer could also be personably liable for invasion of privacy.

When Others Post Pictures Online

What if someone who is not serving as a volunteer of the church happens to take pictures of children at your church and posts them on their Facebook page? Unlike church employees or volunteers, they are not an agent of the church, and they own their images. So, the church has no legal say in how the pictures can be used and isn’t liable.

A Simple Precaution

One simple precaution to take around children is to make sure you never post a picture of a child with a nametag. Doing so provides a child molester with an advantage as they can call the child by name (even if they just recognize them from the picture) which makes them feel more familiar and safe, increasing the likelihood that a child will follow their directions. If you are in a situation where the children might be photographed by others, avoid giving them nametags to help mitigate this danger.

Use Photo Releases Regularly

Many churches have parents sign a photo release when they register their child for Sunday School or VBS. Another good time is if your church is doing a photo directory — have everyone sign general releases at that time. But again, as a precaution, don’t post your photo directory (or even your printed directory with names and addresses) online and don’t have copies available at the back of the church. Pass them out to members and not to strangers.


Copyright Guidelines for Churches

Churches can and are sued for copyright violations. Therefore, it is important for church leaders to be aware of and observe copyright regulations. This guide is a quick summary of the use of copyright materials in an educational context. Note, this does NOT include public worship where you must get permission before using music or printing lyrics. “Fair use” allows one to quote from a work (such as the quote above) or use portions of a work in certain contexts.

One other note: copyright law is filled with grey areas. It is not always clear what is permitted or prohibited until someone wins or loses a legal case. As the U.S. Copyright Office website says: “Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances.”

According to the Copyright Office, there are “fair use” purposes: “for the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.” It identifies four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

2. The nature of the copyrighted work

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The goal of a church should be to avoid those practices that are clear violations and seek to follow practices that are clearly appropriate or at least “defensible.” That doesn’t mean you won’t be sued, but it means you have a reasonable defense if you have been consistently careful.

DOWNLOAD Copyright Guidelines for Churches.

Ways to Make a Planned Gift

The Episcopal Church Foundation has prepared a list of ways you can give to your church, the diocese or one of the ministries of the diocese. They also offer downloadable brochures you can use in your congregation.  DOWNLOAD Planned_Giving_Brochure which provides a general overview.

ECF recommends that you seek appropriate professional legal, tax and financial advice before finalizing any planned gift.


Bequests & Wills
The simplest way to make a planned gift is by naming your parish or other Episcopal ministry in your will. A bequest is a meaningful way to support our work without affecting your cash flow during your lifetime. Your attorney can include it when you prepare or revise your will or you can add a codicil at any time.

DOWNLOAD Writing_Your_Will_Brochure


Charitable Gift Annuities (CGA)
A charitable gift annuity is a simple contract between you and the Episcopal Church Foundation. In exchange for your irrevocable gift of cash or securities, ECF agrees to pay one or two annuitants whom you designate a fixed annuity for life, and you will be entitled to an income-tax deduction in the year you make the gift.

At ECF the minimum age to start receiving annuity payments is 55. However, you can establish a charitable gift annuity at a younger age and defer the start of annuity payments to age 55. The minimum amount to establish a charitable gift annuity at ECF is $5,000.

You will receive an immediate income-tax deduction for a portion of your gift, and your annuity is backed by all of ECF’s assets.

DOWNLOAD the Charitable_Gift_Annuity_Brochure

Charitable Remainder Trusts
A charitable remainder trust is a way to achieve your current and long-term financial, estate and philanthropic goals. A donor makes an irrevocable transfer of cash, stock, real estate or other assets to a trust which produces income for the donor or other beneficiaries, either for a fixed period of time of up to twenty years or until the donor or other beneficiary dies. At the conclusion of the trust period, the remaining principal assets will be distributed to your parish or other Episcopal ministry.

charitable remainder trust allows you to designate the beneficiary of regular payouts from trust proceeds (for either a fixed dollar amount or a fixed percentage) during your lifetime or for a period of time, not to exceed twenty years. At the same time, your parish is designated a remainder beneficiary. This allows you to claim a tax deduction for the estimated portion of the assets that will ultimately go to your parish or other Episcopal ministry upon death or the expiration of the fixed period.

DOWNLOAD the Charitable_Remainder_Trust_Brochure


Pooled Income Fund
In a pooled income fund your gift, of $2,500 or more, will be “pooled” with other gifts in a professionally managed investment portfolio. You, or your designated beneficiary, will be guaranteed an income for life, although the amount of income will depend on the rate of return on the fund’s investments. You will receive an immediate federal income tax deduction and a possible reduction on your estate taxes. Upon your death, or that of the final beneficiary, the remaining property will come to the parish or Episcopal ministry you name.

DOWNLOAD the Pooled_Income_Fund_Brochure


Life Insurance & Retirement Accounts
Life insurance is another way to make a sizeable gift to the church. For example: You can purchase a new policy and make the church the owner and beneficiary of the policy. This enables you to “leverage” your gift, ultimately making a much larger gift than otherwise possible. Contributions to your church to pay the ongoing premiums become tax deductible. You can make the church the owner and beneficiary of an existing policy. The current value of the policy is tax deductible, as are future premium payments. You can make the church a contingent beneficiary of an existing policy, or name the church to receive the proceeds of the policy if the designated beneficiaries predecease the insured.

Also, the remainder value of many retirement accounts can be heavily taxed when left to friends and family, but pass tax-free to your church upon your death. Review with your attorney or financial advisor to learn if this is an appropriate gift for you.


Real Estate, Appreciated Property, & Tangible Personal Property
Real estate or securities can be the source of your gift to the church. Using a Charitable Life Estate Contract, for example, you can deed your home, vacation home, farm, ranch, or condominium to the church and retain the right to live on the property and/or receive income from the property for as long as you live. You receive an income tax deduction when the property is deeded to the church and normally avoid any capital gains taxes when making the transfer. Your inheritance and estate taxes may be reduced at the time of your death. Gifts of appreciated real estate or securities allow you to avoid capital gains taxes. It is important to transfer the stock or real estate to the church prior to selling it. However, if the securities or real estate have decreased in value, you should sell the assets before making the gift, thus establishing a capital loss and a potential tax deduction.

Gifts of tangible personal property, such as jewelry, coins, works of art, automobiles, etc. may also be given to the church. You are responsible for setting an appraised value on the gift. Any gift over $5,000 must be independently appraised.


Charitable Lead Trust
The charitable lead trust, another estate planning tool, enables you to transfer assets to a trust that pays its income to the church or church related organization for a set period of time. At the end of the term, the principal and all capital appreciation returns to you or others that you name.


The Episcopal Church Foundation provides a planned giving program and consulting services. Visit their website at

Thrift Shop Ministry

Several Episcopal churches in the diocese have thrift shops. While there are different purposes and audiences for these shops, they all have a focus on ministry. Some sell higher priced goods with an eye towards raising money — most of which is given to outreach projects. Others sell inexpensive good and serve people who otherwise can not afford to buy new items. And several of our thrift shops recognize that fellowship is an important part of their ministry.

  • St. Mary’s, East Providence, for example, relocated their thrift shop and deliberately set up an area where people can sit and chat because they found that several older adults came regularly, as much for the company as anything else.
  • Other thrift shops “pass along” items that have been in stock for awhile. San Jorge, in Central Falls and St. James, in Woonsocket are two churches that value receiving these pass-along contributions and they probably serve the poorest populations. San Jorge doesn’t have a thrift shop, but if you coordinate with them, they host a yard sale with the good you need to rotate out of your shop. St. James has a thrift shop that works in close collaboration with an agency that screens and refers clients to them.
How might your thrift shop enhance it’s ministry?

Visit some of the other thrift stores in the state — they will be glad to share their experience or help you start a store. St. Martin’s team has assembled a brochure that lists all of the Episcopal thrift stores. DOWNLOAD Thrift Shop Brochure to print copies to distribute in your store and/or church.



Episcopal Church Media Guide

The Episcopal Church has a guide that provides you with the font name, shield, colors and other communications norms that are helpful in preparing materials about the denomination, writing about the Presiding Bishop, etc.

DOWNLOAD TEC Visual Identity Guide

Diocesan Logo

The diocesan logo can be used by congregations which may also wish to use the colors in their communications. PMS 300 and 299 are the identification colors for Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. The following guide gives more detailed information:

DOWNLOAD the Logo Use Guidelines


The diocesan logo (right click to download or open in another tab)








The official diocesan seal: