Every week at St. Simon’s, after the announcements and prior to the offertory, those celebrating birthdays and anniversaries are called forward to receive a special blessing and prayer from the presiding clergy. I cherish this tradition Elizabeth introduced when she arrived here six years ago. It’s such a remarkable, joyful honor to receive and share these personal blessings, with and among fellow parishioners. This week, a small group from the Altar Guild will also be called forward to present new altar linens for blessing, prior to their use in liturgy. As a member of the Altar Guild, I will feel that same remarkable joy and honor about these simple, beautiful swaths of fabric. My hope is that after reading this, you will understand why.
The purpose of the Altar Guild is simple. We prepare all things necessary for the celebration of the Eucharist or other offices of the church. We strive to perform these preparations in a manner so that any service may be conducted in dignity, order and beauty for the worship of God and his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. When we do our job well, we have assisted in making the duties of the clergy, acolytes and lay readers comfortable and effortless. Concurrently, we hope to enhance the symbolism and beauty of the worship experience for all. It is our gift to God. Just as we carefully prepare our homes for an important visitor, we are doing the same diligent and careful preparation for Christ at His altar.
In the early days of the church, it was the responsibility of the priests and attendants to care for the altar and sanctuary. Through the centuries this work shifted, as cultures and needs changed. The 1957 Working Manual for Altar Guilds, by Dorothy Diggs, states “in most churches these duties are performed by a specially chosen group of women.” This was true here at St. Simon’s for the first 25-30 years of our heritage. It was the priest who personally selected or invited women to serve in this ministry. Who we are as a parish today, demonstrates a dramatic paradigm shift from these early years. Each week, our presiding clergy reminds us “although we celebrate in the Episcopal tradition, this is God’s table and all are welcome.” The home page of our website reads: Wherever you find yourself on the journey, there is a place for you here. We are people of the way, always in process, always growing even as we find strength and grounding in our Episcopal tradition. Come explore together what it means to be part of God’s reconciling work in our lives and in the world. We invite you to come and worship with us.
Our hope and dream is that as a way to enhance your personal journey, you will choose to participate in a ministry that attracts you and brings you joy. If Altar Guild speaks to you, we would love to have you join our team. We are not a club, and we are not exclusive to women! Altar Guild may be just the thing for you if:
- You would like to serve in a very quiet, yet important way.
- You don’t mind performing a function that is rarely noticed except when it is not done!
- You are only available a few hours each month.
- You want to be involved, but don’t feel comfortable “up front.”
- You like to set the stage for important events.
- You would enjoy the opportunity to learn more about the elements and symbolism of our liturgy.
If this is not a ministry that speaks to you, I encourage you to explore your areas of joy and passion here at St. Simon’s. Examples of other Sunday worship-based ministries to consider are: Usher, Lay Reader and Lector. Go to our website www.saintsimons.org and explore the multiple opportunities under Faith and Community or Mission and Care. You’ll discover information on Book Clubs, Centering Prayer, Church School, Parish Life, Youth, Children, Adult Formation, Walk in Wednesdays, Green Team, Community Supper, Helping Hands, Viator House of Hospitality, to name a few.
Each of you has so much to offer. We strive to create opportunities that fit and fulfill the hopes, needs, passions and desires for all members of our parish community. Who we are as individuals and as a community is made so much richer, when we share these hopes, needs and passions with one another. Please, don’t wait for a special invitation. Explore, discern, speak up, reach out! We need each other. Not only is it human nature, it’s an essential component to what it means to be part of God’s reconciling work.