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Anatomy of the Anglican Sub-Deacons

Updated on August 7, 2012
Sub-Deacon Augustine of St. Columba's Parish vested for Mass. His liturgical vestments here are the cassock-alb, amice and girdle. In major occasions, sub-deacons don on the tunicle.
Sub-Deacon Augustine of St. Columba's Parish vested for Mass. His liturgical vestments here are the cassock-alb, amice and girdle. In major occasions, sub-deacons don on the tunicle.


Sub-Deacons, in the Diocese of Kuching, are senior lay leaders licensed to assist the priest in Mass and pastoral ministry.

Liturgical Functions

The Sub-Deacons, similar to Eucharistic Ministers, assist the priest in Mass. In St. Columba's Parish, for instance, the subdeacons perform the following roles:

  • Leading the worship and liturgy, except in the performance of the absolution, the presiding of the Eucharist, and the dismissal.
  • Proclamation of the Gospel.
  • Making announcements and notices.
  • Distributes the Body and Blood of Christ in the Bread and Wine.
  • Transportation and handling of the Ciborium and blessed Hosts.
  • Occasionally delivering the homily or sermon.
  • In the absence of priests, lead the Spiritual Communion Service.

A Sub-Deacon (left) assisting at the Sanctuary during the Installation of the 4th Archbishop of the Anglican Church in the Province of Southeast Asia.
A Sub-Deacon (left) assisting at the Sanctuary during the Installation of the 4th Archbishop of the Anglican Church in the Province of Southeast Asia.

Liturgical Vestments

During Mass, the sub-deacon typically wears:

  1. Alb or cassock: A white gown-like attire.
  2. Girdle: Tied across the waist with the remaining length tied in a form of a 'w' or omega.
  3. Amice: The hood-like cloth used to cover the head in the bygone medieval era.

During special occasions, such as Easter, Christmas and the Patronal Day Mass, the subdeacons are also vested in a tunicle. Tunicles are robes that go over the cassock or alb, but not completely covering them. It has two verticle lines and one horizontal line.

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What do Sub-Deacons Do Outside Mass?

Just as in Mass, sub-deacons also assist the priests, or represent them, in their pastoral rounds. This includes:

  • leading the wake services and memorial services,
  • Visitation of the sick (without anointing of the Holy Oil),
  • House blessings and prayers,
  • Leading Bible studies

In St. Columba's Parish, Sub-Deacons are ex officio members of the Parochial Church Council (PCC). Thus, when they cease to be a sub-deacon, they no longer hold any position in the PCC.

Sub-deacons are typically non-stipend. They are not paid a salary by the Diocese of Kuching or the Parishes they serve in.

Unlike Deacons, vocational or transitional, sub-deacons are licensed by the Lord Bishop instead of being ordained.

Deacons are, functionally, ordained by the Lord Bishop and the role is inherent of the person. Meaning, wherever the Deacon goes, he is a validly ordained deacon of the Anglican Church. The sub-deacon, on the other hand, is licensed to a specific parish. Thus, a subdeacon in Miri is licensed to serve in the Miri Parish, but not outside its congregational scope or geographical boundaries.

Also, unlike the Deacon, a Sub-Deacon's license must be renewed after a certain term. An ordained deacon is forever and ordained deacon.


Presently there is no specific or detailed qualification criteria for Sub-Deacons. Typically, they are long serving and long standing lay readers or leaders in the parish. They must have attended a course and are required to attend certain courses after being licensed by the Lord Bishop.

Age, too, is not a prerequisite. There are at least two sub-deacons in the Diocese of Kuching, in Sibu and in Batu Niah, who are in their mid- to late twenties.

Because the Sub-Deacons are senior lay leaders, and are not ordained, there are women Sub-Deacons in the Diocese of Kuching. It must be pointed out that the Diocese of Kuching, along with the other Dioceses in the Province, does not recognise or practice the ordination of women.


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