An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church



Joint celebration of the eucharist by a chief celebrant and one or more concelebrants. Concelebration may or may not include recitation of all or part of the eucharistic prayer by the concelebrants. In the early church, the bishop typically served as chief celebrant and was flanked by priests who joined in the celebration. The bishop alone spoke the eucharistic prayer, which did not have a fixed form. The concelebrants extended their hands over the oblations and prayed silently. This pattern of concelebration is described in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (c. 225). The practice of verbal concelebration developed in Rome in the seventh century. The necessity of verbal participation by the concelebrants has been a subject of dispute. Concelebration may express the unity of the church and the collegiality of the ordained ministries represented in the celebration of the eucharist.

Concelebrants may wear matching or similar chasubles and stand in a semicircle with the chief celebrant in the center. At times, concelebrants have alternated in pronouncing sections of the eucharistic prayer. Concelebrants may extend their hands toward the bread and wine and may join the chief celebrant in reading the institution narrative and the invocation of the Holy Spirit. Concelebrants should share in the breaking of the bread at the fraction.

The BCP notes that it is appropriate for other priests to stand with the celebrant at the altar, joining in the consecration of the gifts, breaking the bread, and distributing communion (p. 354). At the Ordination of a Bishop, the new bishop serves as chief celebrant while other bishops and presbyters serve as concelebrants (p. 522). At the Ordination of a Priest, the bishop serves as chief celebrant while the newly ordained priest and other presbyters serve as concelebrants (p. 535). The bishop also serves as chief celebrant at a Celebration of New Ministry, joined by the new priest and other priests of the diocese "as an expression of the collegiality of the ministry in which they share" (p. 558).


Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.