There is one drawback to filling the role of Master of Ceremonies: when I am exercising the role, it is impossible for me to concelebrate major liturgies as a priest.
When I was appointed to our Cathedral, Bishop Bill mentioned to me that not being able to concelebrate major liturgies was something that would have to be addressed. I was ‘commissioned’ to find some assistance for myself in helping to serve these major liturgies… and so a journey began!
It has taken a while, largely because we weren’t sure just what this assistance might look like, but following discussions with the Diocesan Liturgy Council and Sr Louise Gannon, the Diocese’s Coordinator of Liturgy, there was a process developed to find and form a group of assistants. Funnily enough, they are known as Assistant Masters of Ceremonies (AMCs).
Following a request for Expressions of Interest in 2016 and a subsequent journey of formation, discernment and training, six individuals are now nearing the end of process that was developed. All of them have significant experience in liturgical ministry, mostly as adult servers, and this experience has been brought to bear in their new and additional role as AMCs.
The role of the AMC is predominantly the same as that of the Master of Ceremonies, and together as a College of AMCs (which is the collective noun we’ve decided upon) they will serve the liturgical life of the Church of Maitland-Newcastle by sharing in the ministry of the Master of Ceremonies. Having this College available has meant more events now can have the support of the Master of Ceremonies or one of the AMCs.
The process of formation and discernment has also included the opportunity for those aspiring AMCs to gain practical experience in this role through mutual support and through reflection on their experience at regular gatherings of the College. This reflection in turn helps to identify the requirements for any additional formation and training that might be beneficial for the members of the College. I am particularly grateful to this initial group of candidates for their patience and forbearance as the process of formation and discernment was developed with their assistance and input.
Like many ‘new’ ministries, there have been a few ‘teething’ issues as we’ve developed the process of discernment and formation. As a ‘new’ ministry in the life of the Church of Maitland-Newcastle, we are also aware that there are and will be some questions about how the AMCs will work. This is to be expected, and we are hoping that time and exposure to the ministry of the AMCs will assist in growing the understanding of this ministry into the future.
In exercising their ministry, that is when they are directing liturgical celebrations on behalf of the Bishop, the AMCs exercise the same sort and level of authority as the Master of Ceremonies exercises. The purpose of this authority is about ensuring the appropriate and dignified celebration of the liturgy of the Church. Like myself, it is the service of the liturgy, and therefore of the Church, that is at the heart of the ministry of the AMCs.