What is an Altar Guild?
from the Grace Lutheran Altar Guild Handbook
The purposes of Altar Guild shall be:
- To care for the altar and its furnishings and linens, and to prepare it for each service.
- To care for the chapel.
- To care for the acolytes’ robes and cottas; also the lay assistants’ robes.
- To perform any other necessary duties in accordance with the pastors’ wishes.
excerpts taken from S. Anita Stauffer’s Altar Guild Handbook
The Ministry of the Altar Guild
In response to all of God’s mighty acts, we are called to offer ourselves to God’s service. The basic motivation for serving in the altar guild – or in any other work of the church – is gratitude.
Members of the altar guild are grateful servants: servants of God, servants of God’s people, servants of the liturgy, and servants of the worship space.
Joy is the cardinal attribute of the servants of God. Whether it is preparing the altar, polishing vessels, removing wax from linens, arranging flowers, or pressing vestments, the work is never a burden but is always a privilege. Because the altar represents God’s presence, it is fitting that we act and speak reverently whenever we are in the worship space. Whether there on Saturday preparing the altar, or on Sunday worshiping with the congregation, conduct should express our devotion to God. When entering the worship space to carry out altar guild responsibilities, it is helpful to pray that the work may be done to the glory of God, and that the tasks may be seen as an opportunity to serve God. A life of prayer is a good and fitting foundation for the work of the altar guild. Regular corporate worship is also vital for altar guild members. As servants of God, it is important to join others of God’s baptized family each Sunday morning. Hearing of the Word and sharing in the Eucharist helps us remember who we are and who God is. Worship helps us keep our priorities straight, and provides the context for the work of the altar guild.
The liturgy is a public event. Corporate worship has both a vertical dimension (involving worshipers with God) and a horizontal dimension (involving worshipers with each other). Altar guild members are servants of God’s people as well as servants of God. This means that guild members will be sensitive to how their work affects other people in the congregation. It is important for altar guild members to remind themselves continually of the meaning and impact of what they do. Another responsibility of altar guild members to the congregation is reliability. Corporate worship involves the services of many – altar guild, presiding and assisting ministers, musicians, acolytes, ushers – and it is vital that each person fulfill his or her responsibility. The congregation relies on each person.
Members of the altar guild are servants of the liturgy. This ministry involves preparing the worship space with the furnishings, appointments, vessels, elements, linens, and paraments used in the liturgy. As these items are prepared and cared for, it is important that the altar guild understand their meaning and use in worship. Ongoing study is essential.
Altar guild members are also servants of the worship space. The building is the place of assembly, the place where God’s baptized people gather to worship. It is a witness to the corporate nature of the church. The building is also the place of encounter. It is the place where, more intensively that any other place, we encounter the God whose we are; it is also the place where we encounter each other as baptized members of the body of Christ. Since the worship space is a place where people assemble for encounter with the Holy One, there are several guidelines for that space: beauty, simplicity, quality, worthiness, and appropriateness.