It was in the mid 1980s when approval was given to allow lay people to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion during a Eucharistic celebration. This was due to the growing congregation and the time it would take if only the priests were giving Holy Communion. Extraordinary Ministers comprising lay people were allowed to assist the priests during the Mass to give Communion to the faithful. According to Canon Law, a Communion Minister refers only to the ordained deacon or priest and hence, the lay person is an Extraordinary Minister (EM) and not a Communion Minister. At Nativity Church, we call them EMs.
Going back to the history of Nativity Church, the late parish priest, Father Matthias Tung, appointed not more than 10 senior members of the Board of Wardens from various masses to perform the duty of helping to distribute Communion to the parishioners. They would change their sashes for alps and prepare themselves to give Communion.
In 2002, Father Augustine Tay took over as parish priest. He initiated the communion ministry. Together with a pro-temp committee, the duties, dress code and constitution for the ministry were discussed and finalized. St Lawrence, a martyr and deacon, was chosen as the patron saint for EMs to reflect on and emulate his life.
St Lawrence (c225-258) was one of seven deacons who was in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. When a persecution broke out, Pope St. Sixtus was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed him weeping, "Father, where are you going without your deacon?" He said, "I am not leaving you, my son," answered the Pope. In three days you will follow me." Full of joy, Lawrence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand and even sold expensive vessels to have more to give away. The Prefect of Rome ordered Lawrence to bring the Church's treasure to him. Lawrence went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people and showed them to the Prefect. He said, "This is the Church's treasure!" In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The Saint was grilled over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little but Lawrence was burning with so much love for God that he almost did not feel the flames. Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic Faith might spread all over the world. Saint Lawrence's feast day is on 10th August.
In November 2002, 20 lay people including those who were already performing this duty were appointed and commissioned in a simple ceremony at mass. These men were now appointed to dutifully carrying out their responsibilities at the various masses (5 English masses including a children's mass, 1 Teochew and 1 Mandarin mass). 7 groups with 4 members each were formed to serve the respective masses, some serving more than one mass. A formal committee was elected with the Mission Statement: "To Serve With Love And Dedication For The Glory Of God".
Because of the close relationship with the Wardens, meetings and social activities were often held together. It was only when the EMs and the Wardens started to expand their membership, that each group took their individual identities and initiated their own meetings and activities.
In December 2008, Father Henry Siew took over the parish. With his direction, we now have slightly over sixty members of which 19 serve in the Mandarin and Teochew masses. In January 2016, Fr Alphonsus was appointed Spiritual Director for the EMs. He initiated a monthly Prayer Gathering for EMs and also planned 4 Spiritual workshops for the year of which two have already been held. In addition to serving the parish, we endeavour to build a vibrant ministry through prayer and social activities and to forge a greater bond and sense of community among all the EMs.