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Easter Stole by Juliet HemingrayHallo again to all.

After the Triduum and grand festival of last Sunday's Resurrection Day, we feel a sense of let-down that marks Low Sunday. But even as we sit back and let the Eucharist carry us along, we find ourselves taking note of the shining brass, the gleaming windows, the lustrously polished wood, the fresh flowers, and the crisp altar linens – all details lovingly attended to by our fellow parishioners. And all done for the love of Church untainted by a desire for public recognition.

We have often thought one non-liturgical side of the Maundy Thursday rite could be called 'Altar Guild on Parade'. In the US and Canadian branches of the Anglican world, parishes are blessed to have Altar Guilds – lay folk who work together to mend vestments and altar linens, prepare the chancel for worship and then to restore the altar and sacristy to a state of readiness after services. The silent Maundy Thursday Stripping of the Altar reminds us of all the pieces, from the heaviest cross to the largest torch to the smallest purificator, to which Altar Guild members quietly tend throughout the year.

A friend of ours from North America likes to tell a story about her time as a visiting priest in England. Her first Sunday, she arrived at the church to find the altar not set for Eucharist. She quickly discovered the use of a guild to tend the altar was not the tradition in that parish – it was up to the churchwarden, the verger, or the priest. Both of the former were not present, so our friend dug in the sacristy’s unfamiliar cupboards and drawers finding the needed items to set the altar; the service went without a hitch. But she missed the quiet competency of the altar guilds in the parishes she served in North America. Upon her return, she spoke at an Ascension Day deanery gathering of the altar guilds and thanked them for their quiet and faithful service.

One parish we know has a group of women who tend the pew cushions. They meet occasionally on Saturday mornings to dust the pews, sew torn cushion seams and reattach any missing buttons. In another, parish clean-up day organizers find ways to include the oldest and youngest on their work crews so everyone knows they are making a meaningful contribution.

For those parishes fortunate enough to have gardens, there are volunteers who appear at different times throughout the week to weed, water, plant and care for the flowers, shrubs, and other plantings whose beauty we enjoy when we arrive for service on Sunday.

A few years ago, we attended a luncheon with Anglicans from all over the Communion. Our table included a Primate, a General Secretary, priests, eminent theologians, and a visiting lay woman. When introductions were made, the Primate turned graciously to the lay person and asked her what role she had in the Church. She told him she was nothing important, just an ordinary person in the pews. As their conversation continued, he discovered she had served on the parish council, and currently sang in the choir, helped with the parish newsletter, worked with the youth, and served regularly as a volunteer in the kitchen for parish meals. We were proud to be Anglican when we heard him tell her these were important roles and then thanked her for all the ways she served her parish and Church.

So, as we settle into Eastertide, we give thanks for the gifts we each bring to parish life – all are valuable no matter how quiet and behind the scenes they may be.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

27 April 2014

P.S.: Please share with us some of the quiet ministries you see in your parish! Drop us a line or leave us a comment on our Facebook page.


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