Lay chaplains prepare for and officiate at rites of passage (weddings, funerals and memorial services, child dedication services) for the general public and, in congregations without ministers, for members of the congregation.
Lay Chaplaincy is an important outreach program of the congregation and the lay chaplains are representatives of our congregations in the wider community. They are expected to perform rites of passage in a manner that celebrates and dignifies those special occasions in human life, adding spiritual depth to the lives of individuals and communities. Lay chaplains are at all times expected to interact with the larger community in a professional manner, and to understand and be able to articulate and model Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist principles and practice.
Responsibilities (or how do I become a lay chaplain?)
Your congregation will have its own procedure for choosing new lay chaplaincy candidates. Once you have completed this process, you will have to complete the following form to accompany the application sent on your behalf to the CUC for endorsement:*
Additional form for Ontario residents:
- Registration to Perform Marriages in Ontario (pdf) (Please note that the Ontario Government form has to be mailed in as Vital Statistics needs original signatures. It also needs to be signed by a witness – this can be anyone.)
*With the exception of congregations in Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island where congregations may apply directly to the province, instead of through the CUC.
Lay Chaplaincy Trainings
The CUC regularly provides training opportunities for lay chaplains. Click here for a list of the various programs that we offer.
To find upcoming workshops click here.
Change of Address
The CUC is required to notify vital statistics when lay chaplains move. Please email us the following information:
- Full address of both old and new residence
- Phone number (both old and new if applicable)
- Marriage license number
- If you are moving congregations, the name of both old and new congregation
Temporary Registration to Perform Marriages
Use the following form when asked to perform a wedding outside the province in which you are registered.
Use the following form when wanting to cancel a lay chaplain’s license.
Many congregations have produced their own guides for creating meaningful ceremonies. The following are offered for reference to lay chaplains seeking additional resources:
- Wedding guide from Toronto First (pdf)
- Wedding guide from Ottawa First (pdf)
- Child Dedication guide from Edmonton (pdf)
Lay Chaplain Code of Conduct
The Code of Practice is a statement of the lay chaplains’ serious intent, and expresses their common concerns and loyalties.
As a lay chaplain appointed by my congregation under the guidelines of the Canadian Unitarian Council, I give full assent to this Code of Practice.
- I commit myself, before all else, to an honest and responsible performance of my duties and my role as lay chaplain.
- I take responsibility for my spiritual development and growth.
- I will identify areas of weakness and improve them with training, mentoring, etc.
- Knowing my limitations, I will seek help when in difficulty.
- I will sustain in my own mind respect for the Lay Chaplaincy Program.
- I will refrain from words and actions (or simply behaviour and attitudes) that degrade the Lay Chaplaincy Program, or are destructive to congregational life.
- I will do my best to support my colleagues and to keep, for them, an open mind and heart.
- I will respect confidentiality between colleagues.
- I will not speak disrespectfully or in derogation of any colleague.
- When critical of a colleague, I will speak responsibly, temperately, and constructively.
- I support fair and equitable sharing of ceremonial requests.
- When co-officiating, I will work in cooperation and in accordance to clearly defined responsibilities.
- I will hold to a single standard of respect and help for all members of the church and larger community.
- I will respect the confidentiality of private communications.
- I will respect the private and intimate boundaries of others’ lives, and I will not trespass on those boundaries for my own advantage. My relationship with families requesting special services remains professional.
- I will avoid exploiting the needs of another person for my own purposes, e.g., continue a dependent relationship beyond a service.
- I will treat with respect and sensitivity the religious beliefs and cultural traditions of others.
- I will strive to live and to speak in a way that exemplifies the best of Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist values and traditions.
More information about Lay Chaplaincy guidelines can be found in the Congregational Lay Chaplaincy Manual (pdf)