Photo Essay: Behind the Scenes at the Sunday Service

A couple of years ago, we did a photoessay showing you what happens behind the scenes before the Easter Vigil.  Here’s a companion piece:  what happens before a 10.30 Sunday service?  This was Pentecost, which differs from a regular Sunday Eucharist just slightly–there are streamers, the clergy are vested in copes, and there are two thurifers.  But aside from that, it’s not hugely different from a weekly Mass, so this is very much what goes on each week.

Everyone has a call to be there in advance, with the time depending on what position they are filling.  Sometimes an acolyte doesn’t make it in time,  so you may see a Verger lurking at the Forum to look for a substitute.

One thing that’s striking is how much joy there is in service.  For Pentecost, the clergy gather in the inner sacristy to select a cope to wear from the large closet and they clearly enjoy that.

 About 10 minutes before the service, everyone crowds into the inner sacristy for their check in.  Head Verger Lisa says, “Good Morning everyone!”  and the good Episcopalians chant back, “Good morning Lisa!” She makes sure everyone knows where they are serving (for example, which clergy are serving Gluten Free?  Who is doing the Healing Station?  When do the Streamers process?) If there are any differences or new policies, she explains them.

If the Procession begins in the chapel, everyone comes through the undercroft and up the side steps to assemble there. By this point, the organ voluntary begins.

 You may joke that incense is Holy Smoke, but it really is. Right before the procession steps off, the presider loads the first batch into the thurible and blesses it.

With two thurifers on Pentecost, this is done twice.

As I said, there’s a lot of joy in service, and also a certain amount of adrenaline.  Here are the smiles and excitement as the Silver Team prepares to step off.

And there they go, following the choir.  Note those candles are held at exactly the same height and the acolytes are exactly on step.

Here go the clergy, marshalled by the Head Verger on the side.

Dean Penny nearly always goes at the end of the queue.  Head Verger Lisa is also called the Dean’s Verger.  She waits to fall in before her Dean….

And the procession steps into the Cathedral, singing the opening hymn.

Importantly, this does not show the substantial labors of our devoted sacristans, who meet at a Saturday working party each week to get everything ready for Sunday.  They keep the linens clean and mended, the silver glowing in anticipation, set up the Credence Table beforehand and clean everything afterward. Hem pulled?  Last minute button fell off a vestment?  Call your sacristans!   They deserve a photoessay all to themselves, so look for that in the future.

Susan Forsburg
SPC Photographer and Blogmaster 

Hi -res version on Flickr

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2 thoughts on “Photo Essay: Behind the Scenes at the Sunday Service”

  1. This is great, Susan. Thank you for enlightening us. Yes, I would like to see a similar piece on the sacristans, who are even more mysterious.
    Donna Turner

  2. As the Sacristan for last Sunday, I saw you taking pictures and wondered what it was for. Thank you for "enlightening" our Cathedral members of the back-scenes! Getting the Copes on was quite interesting that morning!


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