What is an AWA?
An Authorised Worship Assistant (AWA) is, within his or her own benefice, able to assist the incumbent with the Ministry of the Word and in conducting worship.
This might involve planning and delivering a Service of the Word, an act of All Age Worship, Morning or Evening Prayer, or assisting at some other service. This may be in the context of traditional church or a Fresh Expression.
Authorisation allows the person to take the lead in an act of worship, assist with the administration of Communion, and/or deliver the Ministry of the Word through a talk or address. Authorisation will be by letter from the appropriate Bishop, for a period of three years and on the joint recommendation of the incumbent and PCC.
There are no requirements for formal training before authorisation is given, but as part of the support provided, there is an expectation of study and learning before the renewal of authorisation is sought after three years. Such ministry will be exercised under the authority of the incumbent and with appropriate supervision.
The Bishop of Thetford writes:
This initiative is aimed at encouraging clergy and lay people to work together more flexibly and creatively in ministry and mission. It springs from the conviction that “ministry belongs to all God’s people”, and is an attempt to embed this conviction more firmly in the life of our churches.
There are many ways in which lay Christians share in the life and witness of our churches, but the leading of worship and the Ministry of the Word have traditionally been reserved to those who hold the Bishop’s license.
We continue to rejoice in the commitment and contribution of those who offer and train as deacons, priests and Readers. Alongside their ministry we are keen to release other gifts among those who are not able, or not yet able to follow that path.
An Authorised Worship Assistant (AWA) will be called out from a congregation through the agreement of the incumbent and PCC. An AWA will be able to exercise a ministry of leading worship and assisting with the Ministry of the Word, giving an address or talk in the context of worship.
This role might be of particular importance in the context of a Fresh Expression, or as a response to the needs of a multi-parish benefice. Equally, there are many older Christians who have rich experience of faith in the life of the church who might be able to use their gifts through this new initiative. It is also hoped that some younger Christians might use the opportunity of AWA to begin to develop a ministry, and perhaps use the experience to help discern a vocation to ordination or Reader ministry in due course.
Crucial to the success of the ministry of an AWA will be the support and guidance given by the incumbent. An AWA will only be able to exercise a ministry in the parish with the approval and under the authority of the incumbent. There are many opportunities for study and training that will support those who exercise this ministry, and it is hoped that deaneries might wish to do some of that work together across parish boundaries.
This ministry will be authorised by the Bishop, but the AWA will be accountable to the incumbent of the parish in which they worship and serve.
Christians have always believed God provides all the resources that are needed to fulfill his mission in the world. This initiative aims to unlock the gifts latent in our congregations so that the local church may be strengthened in its worship and witness.
Further details of this initiative are available in the booklet. I commend this initiative to you and to your prayers.
+ Alan Thetford