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.

Diocesan Archives

The University of Rhode Island serves as the official depository of non-current and historical records of many of the Episcopal churches located in Rhode Island. In 1976,  Bishop John Seville Higgins deposited the records of St. John’s Cathedral and the records of defunct Episcopal churches (which had been transferred to the Cathedral building) to the University of Rhode Island. Subsequently, other Episcopal churches have deposited their records at the University of Rhode Island on a voluntary basis.

You can see a list of what is filed there by downloading the Guide to the Records of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island 1715-1990. These records are housed at

University of Rhode Island Library
Special Collections and Archives Unit
15 Lippitt Road Kingston, RI 02881-2011

If you are a member of one of our churches and have a question about how to file your congregation’s materials, contact Mary Ann Mello at the Bishop’s Office or the URI Archives. The Manual for Business Methods provides guidance on what records should be retained.


Eligible users and restrictions on use of the Archives

Before beginning research, everyone is required to sign the “Research and Guest Register.” A Research Form must be completed if the researcher is using manuscript or archival collections. Collections are used under specific restrictions and may not be removed from the Reading Room area or borrowed from the collections. Permission may be granted to obtain photocopies of items in the collections. A fee is charged for this service and the copying is performed by the staff. Care must be exercised at all times when handling materials. Consuming food or beverages, smoking, and the use of pens are not permitted.

The following links give you a list of the records for each church listed below:

Christ Church (Lonsdale)
Mss.Gr. 95; 1833–1989; 4.5 linear feet

Church of the Advent (Pawtucket)
Mss.Gr. 175; 1886-2005; 8.5 linear feet

Church of the Ascension (Cranston)
Mss.Gr. 96; 1885–1990; 12.5 linear feet

Church of the Epiphany (Providence)
Mss.Gr. 227; 1873-2009; 3.5 linear feet

Church of the Good Shepherd (Pawtucket)
Mss.Gr. 197; 1872–1985; 4.75 linear feet

Church of the Messiah
Mss.Gr. 196; 1855-2006; 57.25 linear feet

Church of the Resurrection (Warwick)
Mss.Gr. 180; 1947-2001; 2 linear feet

Church of St. Andrew and St. Philip (Warwick)
Mss.Gr. 222; 1843-2006; 5 linear feet

Emmanuel Church (Newport)
Mss.Gr. 228; 1877-2007; 30 linear feet

Episcopal Church Women
Mss.Gr. 99; 1875–1987; 8 linear feet

Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island
Mss.Gr. 41; 1715–1990; 68.75 linear feet
Mss.Gr. 41.1; 1810-2003; 44 linear feet

Grace Church (Providence)
Mss.Gr. 144, 1830-2005; 44.75 linear feet

St. Ansgarius (Providence)
Mss.Gr. 182, 1888-1974; 2 linear feet

St. George’s Episcopal Church (Newport)
Mss.Gr.211; 1833-2007; 23.25 linear feet

St. John’s Church (Barrington)
Mss.Gr. 101; 1858–1993; 16.5 linear feet

St. John’s Church/Cathedral (Providence)
Mss.Gr. 94; 1715–1990; 22.5 linear feet

St. John’s (Millville, MA)
Mss.Gr. 97; 1849–1985; 6 linear feet

St. Luke’s (East Greenwich)
Mss.Gr. 100; 1815-2001; 23 linear feet

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (Warren)
Mss.Gr. 220; 1828-2010; 20 linear feet

St. Michael’s (Bristol)
Mss.Gr.. 185; 1718-1999; 59.25 linear feet

St. Paul’s Church (Pawtucket)
Mss.Gr. 106; 1816–1991; 27.75 linear feet

St. Peter’s and St. Andrew’s Church (Providence)
Mss.Gr. 87; 1891–1986; 10 linear feet

St. Stephen’s Church (Providence)
Mss.Gr. 98; 1833–1988; 17 linear feet

Trinity Church (Pawtucket)
Mss.Gr. 107; 1847–1974; 4 linear feet

Trinity Church (Bristol)
Mss.Gr. 179; 1955-1966; 1 linear foot

Finding Baptism, Marriage or Burial Records

In the Episcopal Church each congregation serves as the primary record-keeper of its baptisms, confirmations, marriages and burials. If you are looking for any of these records, please inquire first to the church where the sacrament was performed.

Parish and diocesan records from more than 30 years ago are stored in the Special Collections Department of the University of Rhode Island Library. For more information about the URI Special Collections Librarian, call them at 401-874-4632.

Looking for records from a church that has closed or merged? See the following list:

Church of the Messiah, Foster

Merger/Closing Date: 1994

Resurrection, Warwick

  • Merger/Closing Date: 2001
  • Records kept at: Contact us

Church of the Advent, Pawtucket

St. Andrew’s & St. Philip, Coventry

  • Merger/Closing Date: 2006
  • Records kept at: Retained

Church of the Messiah, Providence

St. Martin’s, Pawtucket

St. George’s, Newport

St. Matthias, Coventry

St. Mary’s, Warwick

Church of the Epiphany, Providence

  • Merger/Closing Date: August 31st 2009
  • Records kept at: Contact us

Calvary Church, Pascoag

  • Merger/Closing Date: October 11th 2009
  • Records kept at: Contact us


By-Laws are developed by each congregation and approved by the Standing Committee. In working towards having a standardized template that all churches of the diocese use, we offer three documents to assist you in your review and update of your by-laws: the Revised By-laws Template, Steps for By-laws Changes and a By-laws Checklist. We ask you to use these documents as a guide as you move forward in this important process.

Technically a church doesn’t have by-laws because it isn’t an independent corporation — all churches are held in trust for the Episcopal Church as a whole and are subject to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church in general and of their diocese in particular.


Fiduciary Responsibility Checklist

This checklist itemizes the practices that the Vestry or Bishop’s Committee of a church are responsible for overseeing to ensure that the congregation’s finances are managed in compliance with federal law, church canons, and diocesan expectations. The officers (Priest, Sr. Warden, Treasurer and Clerk) are legally required under the federal Sarbanes-Oxley law to adhere to these practices. The rector/vicar of the parish is also responsible for ensuring compliance, under the requirements of Title IV of the Canons of the Episcopal Church.

Download the Fiduciary Responsibility Checklist

Bishop’s policy on cancelling worship in inclement weather

Dear clergy colleagues,

Please be mindful of weather conditions that can affect our regular worship schedules. If the State or your municipality declares a weather emergency which urges people to stay off the roads, or your municipality bans parking because of the cleanup efforts, you may cancel your worship for that day and inform your congregation accordingly.

While I share with you the reluctance to cancel worship for any reason, no one wants our clergy or parishioners putting themselves in any danger by driving on icy or snow-filled streets – or by hampering their community’s ability to respond to an emergency.

If you are able to walk to church to minister to those who can do likewise, please invite those who can walk to attend. You may want to discuss with your lay leadership how you will alert them if the decision to cancel services has been made.



Bishop of Rhode Island

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.