The deacon is an assisting minister to the celebrant at the altar during Holy Communion. The deacon must be ordained - either to the diaconate or the priesthood - in order to serve in this capacity. The deacon is traditionally responsible for reading the gospel and for setting up the altar for Eucharist. At St. Peter’s, the deacon is typically one of the full-time clergy of the church or a visiting cleric from another parish.
The deacon is not a member of the Acolyte Guild, and as such - apart from the practices outlined in this customary - is not subject to the rules governing Guild members.
Responsibilities and Conduct
The deacon should be vested and ready for the service no later than 10 minutes prior to the service start time.
The deacon should vest in black cassock, alb, amice, white cincture, stole, dalmatic, and maniple (if available) in the color of the day. The stole should be worn across the body over the left shoulder in the manner of a deacon, regardless of whether or not the person in this role has been ordained to the priesthood.
As necessary, the deacon should assist the celebrant in vesting.
The deacon walks in procession behind the subdeacon and before the celebrant. Along with the other sacred ministers, the deacon passes through the altar rail gate and moves to the right as the subdeacon moves to the left and the celebrant moves forward to form a line; the three sacred ministers should be in this formation by the time they reach the pavement at the bottom of the altar steps. The three sacred ministers proceed to the footpace together and reverence the altar. The subdeacon and deacon should bow profoundly while the celebrant bows to kiss the altar.
Incensing of the Altar
When incense is being used in the service, the altar is incensed prior to the Opening Acclamation. While the celebrant is incensing the altar, the deacon assists the celebrant by lifting his or her chasuble or cope on the right side to help free the celebrant’s arm to swing the thurible.
Opening Acclamation, Collect for Purity, and Summary of the Law
After reverencing and censing the altar (if included in the service), the sacred ministers arrange themselves in a single file facing the altar, with the celebrant at the center of the footpace, the deacon on the second step of the altar, and the subdeacon on the pavement. When the celebrant turns to address the congregation, the subdeacon turns and moves to the gospel side of the pavement, while the deacon turns and moves to the epistle side; both turn back to face the altar while the celebrant is addressing the congregation. When the celebrant turns back to face the altar, the subdeacon and deacon return to their positions at the center, facing the altar behind the celebrant.
At the singing of the Gloria, the deacon remains standing on the pavement behind the celebrant facing the altar. The deacon should make a slight bow at the word “God” at the start of the Gloria and at the name of Jesus, and then the sign of the cross at the conclusion of the Gloria.
Lessons and Psalm
When the Gloria concludes, the sacred ministers all descend to the pavement, with the celebrant in the center and the deacon on his or her right. After reverencing the altar, the deacon leads the sacred ministers to the sedilia, where all are seated - celebrant in the center and deacon on the celebrant’s right.
Gospel Procession and Reading
At the start of the Gradual hymn, the deacon retrieves the gospel book from the credence, and joins the gospel procession, which should have already formed up in the quire outside of the altar rail. When the procession reaches the place in the center aisle from which the gospel will be read, the deacon hands the gospel book to the subdeacon, who has turned to face the altar. If Incense is being used in the service, the deacon accepts the thurible from the thurifer and censes the gospel book as described above. The deacon reads the gospel, and at the conclusion of the reading leaves the gospel book in the hands of the subdeacon and steps aside to allow the crucifer and acolytes to move forward in procession and falls into procession BEHIND the subdeacon carrying the gospel book. Upon reaching the ambit of the altar, the deacon reverences and returns to his or her seat in the sedilia for the sermon.
The deacon rises for the Creed, proceeding with the other sacred ministers to pavement at the foot of the altar steps with the celebrant in the center and deacon on the right. The deacon makes a simple bow at the name of Jesus, moderate bow (or genuflection) at the mention of the Incarnation, and the sign of the cross at the final phrase of the Creed.
Prayers of the People
The sacred ministers ascend the altar steps to the footpace and kneel for the Prayers of the People, making the sign of the cross at the prayers for the dead.
Confession and Absolution
The deacon remains kneeling at the altar for the Confession, remaining kneeling when the celebrant rises to administer the Absolution, making the sign of the cross as appropriate.
After the announcements and Offertory Sentences, the deacon exits his or her place in the
sedilia, moving the pavement at the foot of the altar, timing his or her arrival to take up position with the subdeacon and celebrant. Upon reaching the pavement at the base of the altar steps, the sacred ministers fan out, with the subdeacon on the left, the celebrant in the center, and the deacon on the right, timing this movement so that all sacred ministers are together in a row as they begin to ascend the altar steps. The sacred ministers move to the footpace and reverence the altar, with the subdeacon and deacon making a profound bow and the celebrant kissing the altar.
If incense is being used, it is laid on at this time by the celebrant. After incense has been laid on, the celebrant moves to the sedilia while the deacon moves to center of the altar to await the veiled chalice and paten from the subdeacon. Opening the burse, the deacon removes and unfolds the corporal, placing it in the center of the altar. The deacon begins preparation of the vessels, assisted by the subdeacon. After the deacon has folded the veil, he/she hands it to the subdeacon to be placed on the credence.
The deacon cues the subdeacon to retrieve the water cruet from the acolyte and have it blessed by the celebrant. While the subdeacon is doing so, the deacon pours wine into the chalice, and then directs the subdeacon in pouring the water. After using a Purificator to remove any stray drops of water or wine from the inside of the chalice, the deacon replaces the pall atop the chalice and places it atop the corporal in the center of the altar. Once table has been set, the deacon moves to the epistle side of the altar, while the subdeacon moves to the gospel side, facing one another while the celebrant joins them in the center; all face the altar until the conclusion of the Offertory anthem.
At the conclusion of the Offertory anthem, and when finished with the preparation of the vessels, the sacred ministers will turn to face the nave of the church; this is the signal for the Offertory procession to begin. When the procession nears the altar rail, the sacred ministers will move together to meet the processional party, the three fanning out at the gate so that the subdeacon on the left, celebrant in the center, and deacon on the right. The celebrant receives the offering bason, handing it off to the subdeacon. The celebrant receives Ciborium next, handing it to the deacon, and then receives the Cruet. All three sacred ministers turn to face the altar and move up to the footpace with the offerings. The subdeacon hands the alms bason to the celebrant to be blessed and receives it back, crossing behind the celebrant to the epistle side and the waiting acolytes, handing the bason to an acolyte.
Incensing at the Offertory
If incense is in use in the service, the altar and offerings are incensed at this time, with the deacon assisting the celebrant with lifting the chasuble on his or her right side while the altar is being censed. After the altar has been censed, the celebrant will cense the deacon, who will then receive the thurible and cense, in turn, the celebrant, the subdeacon, and the thurifer, before handing the thurible off to the thurifer to cense the rest of the altar party, the choir, and the congregation. After handing off the thurible, the deacon moves to the center, standing on the second step facing the altar. The celebrant will be directly in front of the deacon on the footpace and the subdeacon will be directly behind, on the pavement; they should be arranged in a single file facing the altar at the center point.
Preface and Sanctus
When the celebrant turns to the congregation to sing the Sursum Corda, the deacon turns and moves to the epistle side of the altar, still on the second step, and faces the altar. When the celebrant turns back to the altar for the Preface, the deacon turns and moves to the center, still on the second step, and faces the the altar (in the same single-file arrangement as before). When the celebrant reaches, “Therefore…” just preceding the Sanctus, the deacon moves to the footpace on the epistle side, still facing the altar. At the start of the Sanctus, the deacon bows, with the other sacred ministers, to the words, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts,” and then resumes an upright posture.
Remain standing, reverencing as appropriate (genuflection, if being used in the service) at the elevation of each of the elements.
Lord’s Prayer, Fraction Anthem, and Prayer for Humble Access
Remain standing, genuflecting or kneeling with the celebrant and subdeacon do so.
The deacon receives Communion from the celebrant along with the subdeacon, before the the rest of the altar party. After receiving, the deacon serves the Host communicants in the Chapel. Along with one of the acolytes who will be serving the chalice. He/she proceeds to the Chapel altar through the organ console gate before the high altar rail is closed. They return by the same route once communion has been administered to all who wish to receive it in the chapel. It may be necessary for the deacon to wait outside of the quire until the ushers have reopened the high altar gate before returning for the ablutions.
While the subdeacon is administering the Ablutions, the deacon proceeds to the footpace on the celebrant’s left (the gospel side) and moves the missal stand and missal to the epistle horn of the altar, and then goes to stand on the second step behind the celebrant facing the altar at the center point.
Post-Communion Prayer and Final Prayers
At the signal from the minister of ceremonies, the deacon proceeds to the epistle side of the altar (remaining on the second step) and faces the altar; all sacred ministers should be arranged in a single file, with the celebrant on the footpace and the subdeacon on the second pavement.
Blessing and Retiring Procession
After the Post-Communion Prayer, and at the signal from the minister of ceremonies, the sacred ministers move to the center (the deacon still on the second step), and then split with the deacon moving to the epistle side and the subdeacon to the gospel side when the celebrant turns to bless the congregation. After the blessing, the subdeacon and deacon move to the footpace on their respective sides, reverencing the altar with the celebrant, and then turn to face the congregation for the retiring procession. As the choir is exiting their stalls, the sacred ministers move toward the altar rail, falling into single file with the deacon falling into procession behind the subdeacon and ahead of the celebrant to join the rest of the procession to the rear of the nave.
After the final hymn has concluded, the deacon moves into the center aisle amid the people and gives the dismissal. After the dismissal, the deacon returns to the vesting area to assist the celebrant with his or her vestments and to return the deacon’s vestments to the sacristy.