The altar guild is seeking volunteers to help set the Lord’s Table. Training is “on the job.” Time commitment is one Saturday or Sunday a month for about one hour. Altar guild is open to all members of St. John’s 13 years and older. Contact Diane Power at 651-222-1031, email@example.com, or at church after services.
Read the story of the altar guild below:
Setting the Table
By Colleen Swope
“Do you like to set the table or do the dishes?”
The above was one of the first descriptions I received regarding Altar Guild. It was a nice, humorous introduction for a ministry that touches all of us so deeply.
I joined the St. John’s Altar Guild to find a way to connect and contribute at St. John’s without a major time commitment, as my free time was scarce. The Altar Guild uses four teams that rotate on a weekly basis, so I would only need to be available for one weekend each month. I thought, “Easy!”
The Altar Guild ministry is one of care and attention to detail. Their work is often behind the scenes — the kind of work that can go unnoticed because it’s making everything run so smoothly. You may never have even heard of the Altar Guild, or not know what they do. To explain it briefly, the Guild cares for the altar, vestments (the robes worn by the clergy), Eucharistic vessels, linens, and flowers. These physical items all have deep spiritual meanings.
When Altar Guild Coordinator Diane Power trained me, she explained all the pieces we were using, names and history. She explained the reasoning behind placement of items on the altars, within the Aumbry (the box in the Chapel where consecrated bread and wine are stored), and the Sacristy itself. She reinforced the seasons of the Church calendar, how the setup changes with each season—sometimes a straightforward setup, sometimes an “all-out assault” for major celebrations. Amid this discussion, Diane also gave me a history lesson of the Episcopal Church.
You see, she was teaching me that while the previous joke is funny, there is so much more to what you are experiencing in the Guild. On Saturday, members of the team pull out the various silver pieces that reflect the history of St. John’s and all the parishioners before us. They put out the flowers that celebrate the lives of past parishioners or celebrate moments of current parishioners. They check the candles that will illuminate our celebration.
On Sunday mornings, they prepare the respective altars for each service. They are setting the stage for the celebration to begin. The Gospel Book, cruets of wine and water, the paten with the bread, the chalice and its finery—all are placed as decreed.
After each service, members of the team clear the items from the Altar and return the Reserved Sacrament to the Aumbry. Every holy item is cleaned and restored to the cabinet to be ready for the next week.
Every week we gather to sing and to pray, to listen to God’s word and to praise God. But especially, we gather to eat together.
Is there anything more basic and human than to share a meal? When we share the Eucharist with each other, we join Christ in his humanity, remembering when he ate with his disciples. But we also join each other in Christ’s divinity. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”
We eat together every Sunday morning. We eat together during Holy Week. We eat together at weddings and at funerals. In times of joy and in times of sorrow, on special days and ordinary days, we eat together. We approach God’s table side by side, as one body in Christ. And it is the vital ministry of the altar guild that ensures this table is set for every meal we share together.
The first time you take part, you are suddenly aware of each piece and its place in the celebration. The experience is very personal and amazingly fulfilling. You are part of this.
The Altar Guild is not just for women or singles. Everyone is welcome to join. If this is something that you would like to be part of, please contact Altar Guild Coordinator Diane Power at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A True Story:
Me: “I can’t make it Saturday morning. I have Guild at church.”
My sister: “Wow, you Episcopalians take things seriously. You book time for it?”
Me: “… yes … how else will we get the church ready on time?”
My sister: “Oh! Guild! I thought you said GUILT!”
[and a collective facepalm]