“An altar society or altar guild is a group of laypersons in a parish church who maintain the ceremonial objects used in worship….They would either organize a fund for the maintenance and repair of church vessels or work to maintain the vessels.” That’s really just the beginning.
St. Luke’s Altar Guild is made up of 14-16 people who are divided into 4 teams. Each team works 1 Saturday per month. Most begin work at 8:00 am and work until about 9:30. On Saturday the teams work together to fill the candles and put out new votives. They also arrange the flowers for the high altar, chapel and columbarium. If there are extra flowers they also do arrangements for the church offices. Additionally they set up for communion for the 8:00, 9:30 and Wednesday noon services. They also check the pews for trash, dust and when appropriate put out seasonal envelopes and booklets.
When there is a baptism, wedding or funeral the Altar Guild also assists. For weddings they set up for communion and assist at the rehearsal and wedding in directing the wedding party. If requested they will arrange flowers. For baptisms they put out the ewer for water, the aspergillum for sprinkling, baptismal candles, oil and towels. They also put out and fill the small vessels that the children use to fill the font. For funerals they put out the pall and the Pascal candle and set up for communion. They often put out the flower arrangements that are sent. Of course, after every service regardless of its purpose the Altar Guild is tasked with cleaning up the vessels used.
The Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter seasons are busy times for the Altar Guild members. In preparation for these important celebrations they polish all of the brass and silver. At Christmas they meet at 8:00 am on December 24th to decorate the church with all of our beautiful poinsettias. At Easter time they meet the Saturday before Palm Sunday to make over 300 palm crosses. During Holy Week they facilitate all of the services from Maundy Thursday and the foot washing to Good Friday and the Great Vigil on Saturday. Saturday is also the time when they meet to decorate the church with all of the lovely spring flowers. Finally, they set up for the Easter service.
They are very conscious of their responsibility for preserving the artistically beautiful and irreplaceable silver communion vessels. They were given in memoriam in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Likewise they take their responsibility for the wise use of the funds donated to them very seriously. Each major purchase is discussed and researched by the four team captains and smaller purchases like flowers are made to last 2-3 weeks.
Fr. Randall’s creativity as well as that of the Altar Guild members means members must be open to new ideas and also able to be resourceful. The Altar Guild prides itself on its ability to turn a creative idea into a reality that will enhance the worship experience of the whole congregation.
The members work hard but also form many friendships and have a great deal of fun along the way.
Contact: Nancy Young