The Altar Guild is the liturgical partner of the Priest. As one Altar Guild manual puts it, “We are the ones chosen to prepare for the meeting of the people with our God.” (Working Manual for Altar Guilds, Dorothy Diggs)
The purposes of Altar Guild are:
- To care for the altar and its furnishings and linens, and to prepare it for each service;
- To care for the sanctuary of the church;
- To perform any other necessary duties to prepare the sanctuary and chancel for worship.
Members of the altar guild are grateful servants: servants of God, servants of God’s people, servants of the liturgy, and servants of the worship space. We care for the objects used in worship and we handle them carefully and respectfully, because these objects have been dedicated in prayer for use in worship for the glory of God.
We also care for the sanctuary of the church. The work of the Altar Guild is to ensure that our sanctuary reflects the holiness and the joy that we all create together in our worship.
The Altar Guild is not a social group. We don’t have pot-lucks, we seldom have meetings. We are not involved in the business of the church. We don’t take votes or make momentous decisions. Most of what we do is invisible to the congregation, and is meant to be that way. The work we do facilitates and enhances our worship and particularly the Eucharist and should never distract from it.
The rewards of serving on the Altar Guild
The members of the Altar Guild are part of an unbroken tradition reaching back to the faithful women who provided for Jesus during his lifetime. (Mark 15: 40-41; Matthew 27:55). We follow our patron saint, Martha, partly because of her practical life of active service, yet also because she was among the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah (John 11:7-29).
Joining the Altar Guild means learning many fascinating aspects of Church tradition, including the esoteric names for all the various vessels, vestments, linens and paraments we use in worship. Most importantly, serving on the Altar Guild is a spiritual exercise. Caring for the Altar is a way to act out our relationship with God. It is quiet, prayerful work.
How to join the Altar Guild
While Altar Guilds can trace their roots to the women who cared for Jesus, at various times in the history of the Anglican Church Altar Guilds have been composed exclusively of men or exclusively of women. Today, anyone can be a member of the Altar Guild. Anyone, men or women, young or old, may have a vocation for Altar Guild service. You don’t have to have any experience to join the Altar Guild. Your training will consist of hands-on instruction from experienced Altar Guild members.
If you are interested in exploring Altar Guild service, please speak to our rector, The Rev. Eric Partridge.