http://www.stpaulswickford.org/ I hope you will enjoy this slide show made today on a visit to historic St. Paul’s in Wickford. The afternoon winter light was just right for viewing the wonderful contemporary and Victorian stained glass. The sacristy is a real treat, with pale cabinetry and a good deal of natural light. There is lots of great storage and room for tall vases. Be sure to check out the last slide of frontlet storage which is suspended from rods in a pull out drawer access- very clever! A little jewel box of a sacristy. Do visit the website above for the history of the parish. The views of the water out of the windows are breath-taking.
With hurricane Earl on the way up the cost and the news that we have had 33 days thus far of over 90 degree days this long summer, what a blessing to contemplate Autumn on the doorstep. Sacristies are smelling fusty, flowers are wilting on the altar, and just about everything needs a cleaning and freshening. I have been in hospital with kidney stones and tooth extractions and am now glad to be back at the computer. Most gardens have taken such a beating this summer in churchyards everywhere, I decided to postpone our church garden crawl until next spring- May looks like a good month.
I recently was looking at a beautiful frontal which was done by the Sisters of St. John Baptist, when the order was in New York. It was done for the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in Newport for St. John the Evangelist on burnt red-orange velvet and has the 7 sacraments in symbols with angels. I shall dig out a photo of this to post tonight. It made me visually try to recollect all the symbols for the sacraments. Without looking at the drawing below- can you remember the sacraments and their symbols!?
Photo from St. Peter’s in Columbia, Tennesee
This has been a week for receiving calls or emails about a problem many guilds share across the state- and the country. How do we entice new members to altar guild work? Along with this plaintive cry comes an affiliated sidebar, “Our gals are getting weary of the “holy housework”.” It’s a busy world today, with every hour crammed with places to go and things to do. For all the modern conveniences, it seems we are expected to do more and do it faster. Some guild members have been on the job for decades, some directresses have stayed on because nobody wants to take over the responsibilities. Burn-out is an expected commodity and the feeling guilty part about having this slump is not surprising. Here are some ideas I have found which work to inject some energy in the crucial ministry we perform in our parishes.
1. Have regular meetings of the guild, maybe monthly with a summer break.
2. Schedule your meetings at a time convenient for working members or members with young children. For instance, Thursday morning at 10 a.m. will reduce dramatically the possibility of attending for many. Early evening around 7-7:30 is an excellent window to accommodate young families and working persons.
3. Sons, husbands, fathers, and MEN in general are wonderful candidates for altar guild work. More and more guilds are discovering that women are not the only possibility for altar guild members! The guys are great at brass-polishing, handyman chores, church garden maintenance, constructing much-needed spaces and shelving in the sacristy, and yes- I have seen beautiful flower-arranging work done by men, and even ironing! One husband member made an ingenious cruet -drying device using wooden dowels. The cruets are washed and inverted over the dowels to dry. Tiverton has a fantastic mother and son brass polishing team- you should see that brass shine at Holy Trinity!
4. Have an annual Christmas party and June end-of-year luncheon at a local restaurant or in a member’s home.
5. Consider an “Open Sacristy” one Sunday in your church. After services, invite the congregation to see the sacristy. Have some of the most beautiful hangings and metalware on display, and be on hand to answer questions. You have no idea how many times I have heard parishioners shrink away from going near a sacristy- “Oh, I am not supposed to go in there”! You’d be surprised at how many folks think something mysterious happens in sacristies, just for the special few to enjoy. Yes, there are wonderful mysteries in our church to be sure, but the sacristy and the work done there should be information everyone can access without trepidation.
6. Offer training for probationers. The director should be able to facilitate this. Often newbies are scared of making a big mistake. Nobody is born knowing all about altar guild work. Training is fun. Assign a new candidate to a long-time member until he/she feels comfortable. Every member should know ALL facets of altar guild work.
7. Every member should have their own altar guild manual. Second- hand Diggs or Sturges/Gent or Edith Perry manuals are available through Morehouse or on Ebay or through used books services like alibris, Bookfind or Amazon.com.
8. Plan a parish visit to another sacristy. Your altar guild can pay a call on a nearby sacristy (Saturday mornings are perfect). Then reciprocate by having the host guild visit YOUR sacristy. Refreshments and a social time after will add some fun and you will enjoy seeing other ways of doing things, exchanging products tips, seeing vestments, needlepoint, metalware, etc. is great fun and can be very useful and informative.
9. Invite a speaker to a regular meeting. Flower arranging, textiles, history of vestments, conservation, church architecture, are all fun topics. Refreshment and education for your guild members is critical.
10. Guild work days can foster a sense of teamwork. Cleaning out closets, polishing and dusting and a general overhaul twice a year can be fun if done as a guild. Afterward, a lunch and social time at a local eatery is a great reward! Also consider an embroidery or needlepoint circle if you have enough women interested in handwork. Old linens can be recycled into small linens, new small linens can be made, repairs done on a guild “Sewing Afternoon”.
11. Invite your Diocesan or Provincial Directress to pay a call to one of your guild meetings.
12. Don’t be afraid to “take a break”. At one time Directresses used to serve no more than 3 years, then were replaced by a new person. The rector was in charge of this appointment. Sometimes a year off to pursue other ministry work in the church or in the community can recharge the batteries, and you will return refreshed and renewed to the altar guild.
13. Visit museums to see religious art and textiles- and read about your “craft” to learn the history of vestments, textiles, church architecture. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston has wonderful historic vestments.
14. In September, a Ministries Night in your guild hall may be just the thing! Each ministry has a table set up, the altar guild may display some vestments, flower arrangement, etc., and have a little printed handout about “What We Do” . Staff your table with members of the guild who can answer questions. This is your frontline for recruitment!
15. Ask your rector/vicar to do an “Illustrated Eucharist”. This is a wonderful teaching opportunity whereby the celebrant explains the WHY of everything that happens at the Eucharist as it is being celebrated. As each vestment is put on, the priest will explain what it means and where it comes from. Why do we genuflect, why is the Host and chalice elevated? To learn about the “equipment”, ritual, and ceremonial of our church is important for altar guild members and congregants alike.
16. Consider a junior altar guild for the youth in the parish.
17. Bring a daughter, grand daughter, niece, nephew, etc. to your team work day to help and see how things are done.
18. Invite your rector to a meeting. He/she may love an opportunity to offer appreciation for work done by the guild, suggest ideas, discuss vestments and needs for the sacristy, etc.
Don’t be afraid to suggest ideas to your parish directress. She is there to coordinate the work of the guild and to keep a lively, inspired and dedicated team on task. Input from guild members is always valuable for directors/directresses to hear. Don’t be afraid to try something new!
Sorry to be missing in action for so long. June flew by helping my youngest to relocate to Hartford. It was a busy month. In May the parish administrators gathered for our annual luncheon. This year St. Peter’s in Narragansett was our host church. St. Peter’s is one of the most beautiful churches in the Diocese with its magnificent Gothic Revival architecture and Victorian stained glass. The high altar stained glass gives a golden glow as the story of St. Elizabeth and the miracle of the roses is portrayed. When the sun shines through this East window, the entire nave is bathed in the warm hues.
Also remarkable is the Victorian stencilling within the chancel, executed in the warm terracotta, ochre and moss green palette of the pre-Raphaelites. What a blessing this remarkable decoration was not covered up with tan paint as was the “style” at the turn of the 20th century when new fads were taken up.
The stained glass is worth the trip in itself, with a magnificent Tiffany angel and a seagull over the waves also from the Tiffany studio. The gull had to be back lit when the guild hall was built and covered the window from natural light. There are many fine examples of Victorian glass, some with fascinating and tragic stories. Varina Jefferson Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis, although a lady of the old South, was much admired by the ladies of the town when she would visit Narragansett in summer, and her memorial window bears her name. A striking window featuring a lovely angel and three cherubs has a sad story. Della Waters of Fall River, who had suffered from severe depression and who had recently been in a sanitarium, took her three young children and was heading on a Fall River boat from New York City back to her family home in Fall River when she, in a fit of despair, threw the children into the ocean and jumped in herself just off Block Island. Their bodies were never recovered. The Waters family had a summer home in Narragansett and dedicated this window.
The small sacristy is a model of neatness, and every square inch is utilized. Note the towel rods on the wall for storing fair linens! If cleanliness is next to Godliness, St. Peter’s must be very close to heaven. Do not miss the memorial garden on the west side, which is filled with perennials and herbs and divine roses!
If you ever find yourself in Boston, on Brimmer Street, do pay a call to the Church of the Advent. I once visited on Ascension Sunday and wished I had thought to bring a camera. We can learn a lot about church flowers and vestments by visiting other churches, observing and asking questions. For many years Ken Stephens was in charge of the altar flowers and they were the best I have ever seen, including the National Cathedral’s! You can have a look at their high reredos with its many gradines at this link http://www.theadvent.org/parilife/scenes.htm
On Ascension Thursday Ken would cover the High Altar and all the gradines with fluffy mountains of gypsophilia in vases, or more commonly known as Baby’s Breath. The effect was heavenly and very cloudlike. No other flower was used. Often using all of one type of flower makes an elegant statement. You will want to fluff out the stems of the Baby’s Breath by carefully separating each stem to get the maximum “air” between the stems, creating the cloud effect. It dries beautifully and will last for days fresh. It is economical and widely available. Baby’s Breath clouds for Ascension- a good thing.
Thanks to Greg and the Liturgical Arts Committee of Nativity of the Lord Church in Cudahy, Wisconsin for these photos. Wow- one of the prettiest pew end designs I have ever seen!. Greg writes, “We have a tradition that parishioners buy flower memorials for their beloved souls on Easter and that helps defray the cost of decorations and flowers. This year we have pastel birds among the flowers, forsythia branches and trees as memorials”.
Thanks so much Greg- lovely! – Now come on, Rhode Island- show me YOUR Paschal candles and Easter decorating photos!
Thanks to Greg and the Liturgical Arts Committee at Nativity of the Lord Church in Cudahy, Wisconsin for sharing these photos from Palm Sunday.
Curly willow is always a good choice to get the vertical line and height and fill in negative space. It draws the eye up to the crucifix. The lighting behind the tabernacle is unusual and very effective. Proper lighting on the chancel is crucial for both practical and aesthetic reasons.
The third arrangement at predella level is an unexpected and effective touch – assymmetry is refreshing to the eye. Thanks for sharing! We love to see how others approach altar decoration. Please send in your photos. (Revdma@aol.com)
Pew ends, wreaths on front doors and of course the altar are the usual and first places which come to mind when we set about making the sanctuary beautiful for Christmas. And Christmas must carry on long after the 24th and look fresh and green. On the to-do list of every altar guild is the upkeep and watering of the potted plants, the misting of fresh greens, and the constant refreshing of drooping floral decorations over the next 10 days.
Sometimes, when decorating, it is good to enter the front door of your church as if you were a visitor and not a long-term parishioner who knows every nook and cranny- or bring someone new into your church to get a fresh perspective. Where does the eye rest when you first come in? Is there a spot for a pedestal, a wreath, an arrangement? The photo below is just inside a busy side entry at St. John’s, Newport. It is a beautiful cobalt blue stained glass window with a very wide ledge in front. Walmart’s had this 14″ Holy Family statue set for $12.99. It makes a wonderful grouping for the Feast of the Holy Family, and a pleasant place to contemplate when one first enters the vestibule. Various greens, twigs, wild moss, rosemary sprigs,and potted small trees with a snowdrift of German statice for snow make up the very simple arrangement which is long-lasting and easy to do.
Don’t forget the rector’s pulpit! Fresh green garland around the top, or a green wreath on the front of the pulpit will make an appealing focal point which will be noticed during the sermon. This particular wineglass pulpit at St. John’s has a little staircase with a newelpost finial of St. Augustine. The arrangement uses the wonderful eucalyptus with the large silvery frosty berries and aromatic greens arranged in a copper cone container along with beaded eucalyptus, white alstromeria and laurel leaves. This arrangement lasted two weeks! Every little niche and quiet corner may be the place for a few unexpected and sweet-smelling flowers or greens for Christmastide. When large arrangements start to fade, salvage still-fresh blooms and greens to make up smaller arrangements for new places. The possibilities are endless and pleasing-as well as economical.
If you have a small shrine in a side aisle or chapel, don’t forget to add a few fresh greens and flowers over the niche or at the base of the statue when doing festival flowers. This is a polychromed woodcarving by Davis D”Ambly of Philadelphia of a young St. John. St. John is portrayed in the familiar coral and green vesture, with his symbol of the snake and chalice. The diapered stenciled door panels in red and blue is a treatment often seen in English churches.
The pedestal to the left of the niche has a bit of a surprise for Christmas- anthuriums! Usually thought of for tropical and exotic floral arrangements- anthuriums are actually a good value as they last a long time if properly tended-and the true red works well with poinsettia and traditional Christmas decoration.
I have worked for many years as a florist, managed a shop, and conducted training workshops for flower arranging for churches- but I must say I have never been so enlightened and amused by any publication as much as Gay Estes hilarious manual The Church Ladies’ Guide to Divine Flower Arranging. Ms. Estes lives in Texas and brings wit and humor and plain old practical common sense to the age-old issue of how to decorate altars on Sundays and holidays economically, artistically, and appropriately. The chapter titles will make you smile and the illustrations and diagrams are wonderful. This is a must-have for any flower guild and can be procured for about 8 dollars used on Amazon.com. Now that summer is here and our gardens are bursting forth for altar vases- let Gay help you arrange them in style! My favorite idea?- using upside tomato cages to make Christmas Trees by bagging potted poinsettia plants in “Baggies” and wiring them to the cage, rootball inside. Fabulous!
And while we are about flowers- don’t forget St. Columba’s Annual Garden Party and Flower Festival this coming Saturday.
This week I am visiting my family in the little Eastern Shore town of Vienna, Md. The Episcopal church there, Saint Paul’s parish, (Diocese of Easton) is celebrating its 300th anniversary. A new guild hall was finished and dedicated last year. More photos on Sunday morning . To visit St. Paul’s parish website, click on this link http://stpaulsviennamd.org/
The Diocese of Easton occupies more than one-third of the geographical territory of Maryland. Originally an isolated section of the Diocese of Maryland, it became its own diocese in 1868. It shares the Delmarva Peninsula with the entire state of Delaware and a small part of Virginia. Easton, the see city, is located centrally in Talbot County. The Diocese is comprised of about 9,750 members and 70 clergy in 39 worshipping communities.
Thanks for sharing photos of Palm Sunday and Easter! The Paschal candle is spectacular- so easy to do using the jello mold ring, yet so effective and festive. The idea of a fan of palms around the Gospel on Palm Sunday is one I have never seen before- very nice. Got photos? Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks Susan- and the hard-working guild at Epiphany for a beautiful Easter and Holy Week effort.