Worship is at the heart of what the Church does. It is where we as a community make our boldest claims: who God is, how God interacts with creation, and what it ultimately means to be the body of Christ in the world. If leading worship is of interest to you, there’s a way to get involved! Members of the parish serve as readers, ushers, prayer leaders, and help set up for and clean up after worship. A description of each of these ministries is found below, including a contact person. For more general questions about Worship, please Natalie Hala, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Altar Guild is a ministry of anticipation and celebration. Each week, we ready the sanctuary with flowers and greens, fresh candles, and clean linens to welcome God’s people into a sacred time and place. We are community builders, a vital part of the St. Mary’s welcome team. We specialize in improvisation, spotting needs and lending a hand, ear or shoulder during Sunday services, weddings and funerals. We also laugh a lot at the backstage fumbles that keep us all humble. Contact: Deborah Franklin at email@example.com.
Hear from our Altar Guild Members
By Deborah Franklin and Pam Bledsoe
The St. Mary’s Altar Guild is a lay ministry of warmth, hospitality and teamwork. We work behind the scenes and under the guidance of the clergy each week to make sure the sacred linens, chalices, candles and pews are ready to welcome parishioners who have come to celebrate the Eucharist, baptisms, weddings, holidays and other celebrations and memorials that help knit us all together as a church family. The typical time commitment – on just one weekend each month — is only about 90 minutes on Saturday mornings, and an hour or so on Sunday (30 minutes before and after the service you attend).
Joining the Altar Guild is a wonderful, low-key way for newcomers to become more rooted in the St. Mary’s community, and build relationships across generations and across the various Sunday services. We’d love to expand our ranks to include more men and couples, as well as women, and would also welcome members who would prefer to complete their Altar Guild Prep on a weeknight after work, instead of Saturday morning. If you can only help out on Sundays, we’d love to hear from you, too. To learn more about this ministry, please contact Deborah Franklin, at Deborah_franklin@nasw.org, or any of the clergy, or an Altar Guild member. We recently asked current members of the guild to tell us why they cherish this particular way of serving the St. Mary’s community. Here’s some of what they told us:
It is satisfying to contribute to the ambiance of our beautiful church. I love working with our flower team — meeting and learning from others in the church, sharing fellowship, and the quiet spiritual time we share in the sacristy while arranging flowers. Barbara Addeo
I joined St. Mary’s Altar Guild in 1972 and in those days, there were very few of us and those who were, covered several weekends each month. I quickly realized what a special gift this was to prepare communion — Jesus’ feast — for those attending the services and special events at which communion is offered. Throughout the years I have been gifted with wonderful friends who shared my love of serving our Lord this way and, although 90 years of age, I pray that I may be able to continue this wonderful and sacred task for years to come. Jan Bolles
The Altar Guild is a wonderful community, as are many ministries at St. Mary’s. I equate our work together as helping to host a fine dinner party. We spend Saturday preparing for the meal, setting the table, using our fine china and silver in anticipation of serving our guests. After the service, we clean up, do the dishes, iron and prepare for the next week and the next dinner party. Nancy Clothier
Having been a member of the Flower Committee, Chair of the Flower Committee, co-Chair of the Flower Committee and Chair of the Linens and Vestments Committee (which are all part of the Altar Guild) and as a member of the weekly AG teams on an as needed basis, I get to see the way our services are actually put together. Behind the scenes is almost as important as being in the congregation on any given day, in how we worship the Lord. Steven Currier
One of our jobs is restocking the pews with squares of heavy cardstock and crayons — for our youngest parishioners’ prayers during Sunday services. Today I spent a little time going through all the crayon boxes to make sure each one had unbroken crayons of each color, so children who don’t yet have the words to tell God their joys and fears have sky blue, sun yellow and frustration black at hand when they need it. Ours is a multi-generational, team ministry, and I love that, too! Deborah Franklin
I became a member of the Altar Guild because I wanted to deepen my commitment to St. Mary’s. I had little idea of what would be expected of me but I knew I would be serving the church, my church, in a capacity that would bring me closer to God through my relationships with the congregation. For me, Altar Guild has become the practice of my faith. It is putting into action the words of our prayers, the Gospels and the sermons that we hear on Sundays. Gloria Galindo
I love the peacefulness of the church on Saturday mornings. And of course it is a great group of people to be working with. Mary Hill
Being on the Altar Guild allows me to regularly contribute to the SMVSF worship experience, engages me more in my personal worship experience, and provides me with real connection to another active community of SMVSF parishioners who are devoted to worship and to service. It also exposes me to art — crayon drawings left by children (and others) from worship services. This ministry allows me to develop more order in my life — red prayer books on the left, blue hymnals on the right in every pew. What else could I be doing at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning once a month? Peace. Gretchen Lintner
In all the other things I’ve ever done anywhere there’s been nothing like the very special camaraderie of the Altar Guild. I would never have expected it before I volunteered, even though I’ve been a member of the parish since 1975. Very occasionally I have had to fulfill the Altar Guild tasks by myself. It’s wonderful, peaceful and very quietly spiritually restorative to be working away, preparing for the next service in the church all by oneself. Landra Miles
Approached about joining Altar Guild, I said, “I’m not even an Episcopalian.” Response: “But you’re breathing.” Wow! Accepted without question — very different from my previous experiences with religion, in which I had to do this, refrain from that, never say such and such. Like breathing, Altar Guild service became automatic: one Saturday a month, an hour preparing for Sunday’s service; half an hour, at most on Sunday, reversing the prep. But, like finding that second wind in a long run, unlocking the church door of a Saturday still can overwhelm me with thanks, awe and the feeling of privilege to be able to do this — to share in assuring our communion smoothly, beautifully, blessedly proceeds. Wendy Moseley
As the newbie on the Altar Guild team I’m looking forward to learning from and serving with such a dedicated and caring group of people. I signed up for the Altar Guild in part because I saw a request for “tall” volunteers who could reach the candles in the sconces to change them! I figured I’m tall, so why not?! Also because it provides me with a way to continue to serve the church I love in a lower key way after my three years on the vestry. Liz Paxton
It’s a blessing and a privilege to be able to participate in the Holy Housekeeping and preparing the altar for the Holy Eucharist Services. Every time I vest the chalice, I am reminded of God’s endless love and care for all of us. Being a member of the Altar Guild has added so much to my spiritual journey. I even like to iron! Gloria Powell
I love being part of the Altar Guild because of the meaningful friendships I’ve made with parish friends who I never would have met if it were not for the Guild (because we attended different services). Joining the Altar Guild opened the doors of the St. Mary’s community to me, and bound me to the wonderful people that comprise our church. I am also delighted by the fact that we work with beautiful objects, teeming with historical significance, and we do so in one of the most beautiful sanctuaries in our city. Consider joining us — it is a wonderful experience! Yaro Ralph
AG has given me a chance to participate in and support the liturgy by making the church ready for the community celebration, and tucking it all away after the last Sunday service. This fits so easily into a busy schedule — only one Saturday and Sunday morning a month — with lots of flexibility to trade with others on AG when I am out of town. The camaraderie and joy of getting to know one another has been the hidden bonus of this ministry. It is a rewarding way to both give back and be included in the church community. Kim Regan
I have been a member of the Altar Guild for many years, having previously served as president and treasurer. Handling the sacred vessels and vestments is special to me. Our work enables the services to proceed smoothly and without incident. I also enjoy working in the church when it is empty and I can contemplate all those who have gone before. I feel surrounded by their spirit. Last but not least I cherish the wonderful fellowship among us and am so happy to still be a part of this dedicated group. Jane Standing
Arranging flowers alone in the church always makes me feel very close to God. It’s a meditative and creative process which seems to welcome the Spirit. Sometimes Eric is practicing and the design is inspired by his music. When I arrange with another committee member, the friendship and collaboration always results in a beautiful design. Victoria Sutton
Serving on Altar Guild opened my eyes to aspects of worship that I never before noticed. There is surprising depth and detail to the objects we care for — cloth, candle, chalice, tapestry, book — each has an explanation behind its role, a reason it matters and often an old story in how it came to us. Learning about the tools of worship makes you see the service with new eyes. Altar Guild has also connected me to the people here at St. Mary’s in unexpected ways. I love knowing a baptism is coming up, that the youth group will be presenting a sermon about their mission trip, or that the youth choir has a special performance. No matter how busy or reluctant I am, an hour of tending to the tools of worship for Sunday leaves me feeling peaceful, whole and connected. Carolyn Ortler Tsai
I love the quiet time arranging flowers in the courtyard or listening to the organist practice for Sunday services inside the church. It is a special spiritual moment to have the church to oneself while creating something pretty. But, best of all, are the joyful times when the entire flower committee is together planning and preparing for Christmas and Easter — a lively group of treasured friends! Cheers, Joan Toney
I joined the Altar Guild because of a spider web. One Sunday, soon after I’d begun coming to St. Mary’s, I noticed a small spider web attached to the processional cross while the gospel was read. It was apparently unnoticed by others, but I found it a distraction. I was amazed the next week to see that the small web was still there! I longed to bat the thing away. So I was ripe for recruiting when Doris Pummill invited me to join. I knew it meant unlimited access to those crosses. I’ve very much enjoyed more than 20 years with the Altar Guild. Although it’s long dead, I would like to say thank you to that spider. Lee Walsh
Chalice Bearers assist the clergy at the altar during each service, and administer the chalice during Holy Communion. At the 11:00 am service, they carry the cross and torches during the processional, at the reading of the Gospel, and during the recessional. As well as serving on Sundays, the Chalice Bearers serve during Holy Week and during the Easter and the Christmas services. Contact: Pam and Bob Bledsoe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lay Eucharistic Ministry is a vital step in helping embody and emphasize the reality of the church as community. We come forward to the altar immediately before the Eucharist. We receive a commission from the priest and carry consecrated wafers and wine to the folk, many elderly and infirm, some temporarily incapacitated, who are unable to attend services at church and wish to receive visitors and communion at home, in a nursing home, or sometimes at the hospital. Sometimes they are alone-sometimes a caregiver joins us- sometimes a group is assembled. We offer a brief service of worship that usually includes the Gospel and the Lord’s Prayer and features the sacramental bread and wine directly from St Mary’s table. Contact: Natalie Hala at email@example.com.
Lectors and Prayer Leaders
The volunteers to this ministry offer our time and talent to prepare and read scriptural lessons, lead the prayers of the people, and (at 9:00 a.m.) deliver children’s homilies. We are a responsive and dedicated group that brings a congregational presence to the liturgy. Contact Margaret Stafford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ushers present the first face of the parish to newcomers and regular worshipers at St. Mary’s, as welcoming hosts. They guide worshipers to seats and through the service. Ushering is a fantastic way to contribute your time and talent to the SMV community and is a minimal commitment of once per month at the service of your choice. We also ask for volunteers to assist at special services such as Christmas Eve and Easter. Ushering is a great way to meet people as you welcome them in the courtyard and assist in helping to make the services run smoothly to help create a worshipful atmosphere. Contact: David Sullivan at email@example.com.