“Presently, my firm is redesigning the sacristy at our church which was originally built in @ 1950. This is the only article that I have been able to find on the subject although our clergy has tried to contact a number of churches for suggestions. Thank you!
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!
Thanks for the photos, Adelaide. (scroll down to see the photo slideshow) I am glad to see the hanger is not one of the wire variety. You might consider padding the ends of the hanger with a little foam or batting to ease the stress on the shoulders. Wow- the neckline IS grime-y! Hard to believe that chasuble ever saw the front door of a professional dry cleaners. First, let’s look at those reddish spots. They appear to be rust. Your fabric looks like a light wool in a twill-like weave. I think we will have to attempt spot cleaning on this chasuble. You will need a Q-tip and a bottle of WINK rust remover. First, apply WINK to the Q-tip and test a drop on the inside hem of the chasuble to see if any discoloration occurs. Then with cold water, blot out all traces of the WINK with a white cotton rag (Carbona is another brand of rust dissolver). Now check in a few minutes and see if there is any discoloration. Then proceed to try the WINK on one of those red rust spots. The red should come out very quickly. Apply the cold water once the red is gone and blot out the WINK residue. Blot with a white terry towel to dry . This will be a bit time consuming but worth it. Work “small” with as little product as possible for spot cleaning. Hence the Q-tip!
The grime around the neckline is unbelievable! Oh if we could only convince our beloved clergy to wear an amice again! It costs about 30 dollars for a cotton amice which you can wash in a machine- and $800-$1200 PLUS to buy a new chasuble! Here is what I would try first. Line the neckline with a fluffy white cotton terry towel so it fits all around inside the neck opening. Grime around the collar is oil- based, human sebum attracting and holding the dust and dirt. Summer is the time perspiration and body oils are even worse. *Note to amice-less clergy – wash your necks with soap and water with special care! Get a close shave on the beard under the chin, and make-up and perfumes are not kind to chasubles. So we approach this as an oil-based stain. Read more about oil-based stains here http://www.si.edu/mci/english/learn_more/taking_care/stains.html
This will take plenty of patience and multiple applications in most cases. Let’s start with a couple inches of the grime first. Take one cup of luke-warm water and add two DROPS of “ALL free and clear detergent”. ALL free and clear has no dyes and perfumes and is an excellent detergent to always have on hand. Do not use a sponge. A linen or cotton cloth (white) is the tool to use to apply the detergent. Blot on the detergent/water solution. Blot in one direction, don’t rub back and forth, this will cause abrasion to the threads. You may need to do this procedure several times to get the grime out. Be sure to rinse in clear water to finish and remove all the detergent. Blot up excess water with a clean white towel, patting dry. Let’s try this first and if you do not get the desired result, we will go on to more drastic measures! Keep us posted.
Happy New Year! I have been down with the flu bug along with many others for the past two weeks. I am hoping you have taken many great photos of your church decorated for Christmas and will share with us here.
The catalogues are starting to come into my office so it must be January! I love looking through all of the religious goods catalogues and finding new items. You may want to keep one of those stand-up storage files in your sacristy for your supply catalogues. Almy’s and Egan’s usually are sent routinely to the church office, but all companies will be delighted to send a catalogue and sometimes even fabric swatches and samples upon request. If you have a good resource, please send me the company name so we can share it here. I will be posting catalogue resources this year beginning with Monastery Icons http://www.monasteryicons.com/
The company has a beautiful line of icons. I ordered the St. Damiano crucifix to the left a few years ago for Taize prayer services. You will enjoy surfing their website for cards, beautiful jewelry, statues, garden statuary, Celtic designs, incense, banners, and many other kinds of religious items. There is a link on the site to request a free catalogue. Perhaps someone in your altar guild will be appointed to maintain a catalogue supply archive for your sacristy. It is always a help to have a catalogue with photos at the ready when a donor comes forward wishing to donate an item to the church.
It has been a busy month going through boxes of redundant and unused vestments and linens which have arrived from other churches for relocating. It is like Christmas when these things appear in my office. I have quite a number of chalice pall inserts in various sizes and a good deal of linen remnants in various lengths. If your altar guild would like to make a new chalice pall, I am able to send you the insert (either cardboard, plexiglass or metal) and enough linen with an iron-on transfer and making directions to make a pall. They are really not very hard to do. (Revdma@aol.com )
I will be putting up a slideshow this weekend of some of the pretty embroideries I have seen over the summer and of some of the vestments I have relocated. My project for the autumn is documenting needlepoint in the Diocese of Rhode Island. Back in 1995 I did a program on this fascinating topic for the ECW but now we have digital photography, I think I can get better results. Rhode Island does have some LOVELY kneelers and other needlepoint items. Please let me know if your sacristy is in need of something in particular- I may just have it-and my husband will be delighted to see more “church things” exit our burgeoning front parlor!
What beautiful weather we are having! – just the right time to air out our sacristy closets and drawers after the muggy August we endured. September is a time for starting the back-to-church season with all its many programs on a fresh note.
Recently I received an email asking me to recommend an iron for ironing fair and small linens. You’ll want to iron linens quite damp and ideally chilled from your refrigerator. For some reason linen fibers lie down and behave nicely when they are chilled before pressing. You can spend between 30- 150 dollars for a steam iron. The thing is, you do not need steam for pressing damp linens-the idea is to press and dry these items at the same time. A metal soleplate is essential- and one without steam vents is superior and will not leave steam hole “tracks”. I am not a fan of plastic irons, yes, they may be lighter but they do not get the job done. I will cheerfully “pump iron” of 5 pounds with a steel soleplate just like my Mom’s from the 1950′s.
At last I found a source for the steel soleplate, traditional DRY iron which is perfect for ironing wet linen- without the steam holes. Please check out this link http://www.vermontcountrystore.com/browse/Home/For-The-Home/Household-Cleaning/Laundry/Dry-Iron/D/30100/P/1:100:1030:10340:101110/I/f06328?evar3=BROWSE# for Vermont Country Stores and by all means watch the video about this product which is on the same page. At around 30 dollars- this is the iron for your linens and cottons. Every sacristy should have this, and a sturdy, serviceable iron board.
Well, it’s September 1st and we’re back online from a busy summer. In my mailbox this month was a request for small-sized cassocks for a children’s choir. Does anyone have some tucked away in sizes 6-14? Red is preferred but black will do. We also are looking for the little white cottas in the same sizes. Please drop me a line at Revdma@aol.com and I can arrange to pick up these items!