Dear St. Paul’s family,
From time to time I want to share with you what some of our lay ministers do behind the scenes. As you know, over 300 people donate time and talent to the many ministries of the cathedral. Some ministries are more visible than others, but every ministry is valuable. Here is a short summary of what our amazing Altar Guild, or Sacristans’ Guild, does.
The job of the Altar Guild is to prepare the church, sacristy and chancel for services of Eucharist and Choral Evensong as well as special services such as weddings and funerals. It includes care of vestments, silver, linen, wafers, wine, flowers, and candles.
We have a Eucharist service every day of the week, and on Sundays there are three Eucharist services and Choral Evensong, so that’s ten services every week. On Sundays, the sacristans work in teams. On weekdays, a single sacristan does the work, and ideally each weekday has a dedicated sacristan who becomes familiar with the preferences of the regularly scheduled clergy.
Our sacristans aim to ensure that, when the clergy enter the sacristy to prepare for worship, their vestments are ready and they can concentrate on the part of the service they will be leading.
The weekday chapel services are set up so that when the priest arrives they can simply vest and then conduct the service. Saturday is a day of preparation for each of the teams that will serve on Sunday. The appropriate vestments, altar linens, and all other necessary items (such as holy water) are placed in the proper place in the sacristy for easy access at 7 AM on Sunday morning.
Twice a year the Altar Guild holds a polishing and cleaning party for our lovely holy items. On the Saturday before Palm Sunday, they prepare the palms from donated palm tree cuttings. A few days before Christmas there’s another major event with decorating the church for the seasonal liturgies. For each of these special events sacristans bring baked goodies to share and make it a festive occasion.
Sacristans receive on-the-job training, and work sheets are available for each service as well as pictures of the setups. We all need reminders!
Canon Konnie Dadmun has served on the Guild for over 20 years and has led the Guild as Canon Sacristan for about 15. She says this about the ministry, which is currently shared by 26 people: “The sacristans have their own small community within the church. Getting to know the wonderful people is a way to feel more at home at St. Paul’s, and it is a true feeling of belonging. We work hard together and laugh and sometimes cry together.”
This is a crucial ministry, and our sacristans are experts. I am grateful for every one of you.