“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!
Can it be possible that Palm Sunday is only one week from this coming Sunday? Where did the winter go? Our Easter Flower appeal went out on March 7th. How many times have we heard, “I meant to send that in!”? Make donating to this annual appeal as easy as possible. I have found that inserting a separate half-sheet inside the Sunday bulletin each week makes it easy for parishioners to attach a check on the spot, without having to tear anything out, then they can deposit check and dedication form in the alms bason. Also leave a few forms in obvious places like the back of church, the narthex, vestibule table, parish hall etc. Easter flowers may also be given in honor of someone or in thanksgiving for blessings received or for the service of an individual-not just as memorials. The Paschal candle may be sponsored by a church group or individual. Be sure to include the date when donations should reach the office.
1. Nurseries and florists will be very happy to have your bulb and flower order two weeks before delivery or pick up. To obtain the best product, make it easier for your supplier to order in plenty of time. If you plan to have paper coverings around your pots, be sure to tell your supplier. Plain dark green paper is best -the flower, not the pot, is the focus. Clear plastic drip cups are also available. Most florists and nurseries charge for papering pots and charge for the water catcher cups. Have floral materials delivered in plenty of time to make up the Maundy garden of repose and cut flowers in time to have stems cut and a good rest in deep water before arranging for the Great Vigil. At the high cost of blossoms- make each one count with careful prep time which will assure longer life.
2. Home Depot and Stop and Shop have begun putting out the potted palms. These are great for Palm Sunday, Easter, and will go happily outside this summer and return for you next year. Most are priced at about $15.00 for a large pot with palm height at about 6 feet high- a bargain!
3. Now is the time to get that brass polishing out of the way- it is the messiest part of festival preparation. Font inserts, Paschal candle stands, candlesticks, patenellas, thuribles etc. should gleam for Easter Sunday. MAAS is my preferred metal polish. Silver polishing is usually also on the agenda over the next 2 weeks.
4. Matches, flashlights and batteries, a good supply of candles, congregational candles and bobeches, baptismal candles, charcoal or kindling, towels for Maundy Thursday, and other Holy Week supplies should be procured and stored this week. Time to hunt up and clean the hibachi or other fire-making brazier for Saturday’s Great Vigil. Check wine and wafer supplies as well. Don’t forget to check on the waxed wicking for acolyte candle lighters!
5. Last call for minor repairs and cleaning of white vestments and hangings, small and fair linens. Holy Week is the time of year when the linen drawers should be well-stocked all the time for all emergencies.
6. Rotas for Holy Week should be sorted out with a list posted in the sacristy of all those covering the many services. This may be the week to have additional guild members lend a hand to the team on duty. Who will help maintain the potted plants? Will any flowers go to shut-ins? Will there be a parish tidy-up day with the altar guild? This is usually done the Saturday before Easter Sunday around 10 a.m.
7. Be sure to take your Paschal candle out of the box and make sure the incense grains are there and that there are no cracks in the candle. Be sure the candle end fits smoothly into the candlestick stand.
8. Do you have a team ready to assist with the stripping of the altar and the receiving and storing of chancel furnishings on Maundy Thursday evening?
9. Be ready to remove the lily stamens as soon as the pots are delivered. Don’t wait until the warm room causes the anthers to burst open and dump their pollen all over everything. Lily pollen is the worst to get out of cloth.
10. Being prepared, delegating chores, stocking up on supplies, good communication with the guild members and rector, and crossing off tasks ahead of schedule will insure a smooth, tranquil Holy Week and Easter Sunday and a beautiful sanctuary for the Feast of all feast days.
This Sunday marks a very important feast in the church year, as well as closing the church Year B. We take down the green hangings which have been up so long in the Season After Pentecost. Now is a good time to get those cleaned and steamed. Next Sunday we will find ourselves in Advent I, the birthday of the church. Christ the King, sometimes called Feast of the Reign of Christ in some parishes, is a feast for extra care in preparation of the altar and decorations. The best white set of vestments and hangings are brought out, touches of gold or silver are appropriate, the brass should gleam, and white flowers are particularly lovely. Next Sunday will mark a great change as the altar once again becomes subdued, flowers are put aside until Christmas Eve. In some parishes boxwood or plain evergreens might be seen sparingly. The Advent wreath becomes a focal point. Some parishes will use a “Christ Candle” of white in the center of the Advent wreath of three purple and one rose candle. This white candle will be lit on Christmas Eve at midnight services.
Some churches in our diocese have a cross bearing the Christus Rex in their sanctuaries. Christ Church in Westerly has a large one in the side chapel. Some church supply catalogues sell the figure alone or on a cross in several sizes and ready to be mounted on the wall.
The time for preparation begins for Altar Guilds all over the world: ordering candles and bobeches, writing and mailing the annual Flower Memorials letter, checking on supplies of wine and bread, placing orders at local nurseries and flower shops, polishing brass and silver, pressing the best linens, ordering incense, polishing the thurible, tidying sacristies for the busy days to come, and the many other little services performed by faithful hands year in and year out as the great Feast of the Nativity approaches. The sweet-smelling quiet of the sacristy is a wonderful place to be at this time of year.
I am back from vacation! The weather has been so humid and muggy the past few weeks. Does your sacristy smell musty? So few churches are air-conditioned in New England and most sacristies are closed and airless during the week. This can be deadly in the summer months-but what can you do? If you do not have an air-conditioned sacristy, there are a few measures which can be taken to help prevent damage to vestments, mildew, and that musty odor.
Textiles like to be comfortable at about the same temperature human beings enjoy. Ideally, 50% humidity and 60 degrees farenheit is the dream climate for textiles- but highly unattainable unless you have a museum set-up. You can however, remove vestments from those big plastic storage zip-up bags. These have their own mini-environment which is not good in summer months for long-term storage. A de-humidifier is a cheap and effective device for removing moisture from the air. It’s a good idea to leave tight-fitting drawers and closet doors open so air can circulate. Simple standing fans placed at each end of the room can keep heavy air circulating, which is important. Recently I found at the Christmas Tree Shop, those dehydrating crystals which come in a small plastic tub. These absorb excess moisture in the air and can be placed in the closet. Although it is a strong temptation to open and leave open sacristy windows, street dust and pollutants and insects can enter and cause problems.
If you store wine in the sacristy, be aware that it may turn vinegary if stored where the temps rise high. There’s nothing worse than Taylor Tawny Port from under the sink in a hot sacristy! What a terrible “bouquet” and flavor! Keep your wines cool, even if it means storing them elsewhere in the church during the summer months. Pita, and other types of made bread for the altar will mold very fast. It is best to keep these refrigerated during the week and remove just before use. Even wafers become gummy and softened. You may try keeping wafers dry and crisp in a tight plastic container in the refrigerator instead of in a sacristy cabinet.
Finally, do remove all flowers and foliage from the sacristy trash can. Left for even a couple of days, the smell of rotting cellulose is very unpleasant, and becomes a source for mold and mildew. If flowers are left on the altar from Sunday, the water will need to be changed frequently during the week as bacteria grows fast inside the vases and the smell is horrific- something that must not be countenanced for altar flowers! Summer is a challenging time to keep things fresh and odor-free. The good news is that September is coming soon!
There seems to be quite a diversity of ideas as to setting up a credence table or shelf depending on custom in the parish or desires of the current clergyperson. As I travel around to different churches, I take note before the service begins of how things are done in our parish churches. Some churches use a chalice veil, some use only a purificator and pall on the chalice. Pita, or baked bread requires a different presentation than wafers. So, in the end- there are no hard and fast rules. Consult your parish priest for preferences. There should, however, be a clean white cloth on your shelf or table, the chalice should have a purificator across the top and a white pall to cover the top of the chalice at the least. When placing your water and wine cruets (or flagon), make sure the handles are at 12 ‘o’clock-in other words- pointing away from the altar server. When the server grasps the cruet by the neck, then pivots to face the priest, the handles will be convenient for the priest or deacon to grasp.
In some churches, I have observed the corporal is already spread on the altar at the beginning of service, with a vested chalice center altar as a time-saving convenience. It is a particular desire of our bishop that this not be done. The Liturgy of the Word should take place without communion metalware on the altar. The portion of the service devoted to the Holy Communion is the time for the deacon (if there be one) to “set” the table for the Eucharist, beginning to do so at at the Offertory. The chalice(s) should be resting on the credence table or shelf up until that time. Some parishes have the custom of oblationists or gift bearers to bring the gifts of wine and bread up the center nave aisle to the foot of the chancel where either the Master of Ceremonies, head acolyte, deacon, or sometimes the priest will step forward to receive them. Once again, make sure the handle of the wine cruet is facing away from the bearer so as to be ready to grasp by the receiver.
After the service of Holy Communion is completed and the vessels emptied and wiped clean at the altar, everything should be returned to the credence table. I have noticed that many priests, after rinsing the chalice with a little water, wipe out the bowl with a purificator and leave the purificator in the chalice, then place the pall and veil on top. This purificator usually has a lot of wine stain on it and should be carefully washed out with the wash water going in the piscina or in the earth. Don’t forget to take the corporal out of the burse, shake any little particles of bread over the piscina to be washed away-the same for the paten or dish which contained baked consecrated bread.
It is always convenient to place the lavabo towel over the lavabo bowl, in readiness for the ablutions. I find most clergy appreciate a good-sized towel and not a tiny “fingertip towel”. A hand towel of linen, about the size or slightly smaller of a regular hand towel we use at home is much-appreciated. The lavabo towel is the one small linen which does not have to be blessed. You can make up lovely lavabo towels out of linen or cotton scraps, pieces cut from worn fair linens which still have some remaining good fabric left, or fine linen napkins or tablecloths. You may embroider a neat whitework or redwork cross on it when the edges have been hemmed.
Not all priests keep sick call kits in the church sacristy, so you may not have had to clean or pack linens and supplies for a sick call kit as part of altar guild regular duties. Still it is good to know how to do so if ever the need arises. The usual traveling or home Mass kit or sick call case contains miniature linens (purificator, lavabo and corporal), a cross or crucifix, small candles which will fit into spaces on either side of the crucifix, a small chalice and ciborium, paten, water, wine, wafers, a small, short purple stole, cotton balls, and anointing oil, and in some cases a small spoon if the individual receiving the Sacrament is an invalid who may have difficulties. The fittings may be very elaborate and costly or very simple and plain.
Viaticum can be referring to the sacrament given to the dying, or even to the vessel which holds the consecrated elements. I have seen a most remarkable viaticum at St. John’s Newport which is a cylinder of crystal with a cone-shaped threaded screw top which holds a consecrated wafer. The crystal tube is for wine. This was made in Scotland in 1906. There are other styles for the portable viaticum container such as the one pictured to the left on sale in a popular church supply catalogue. This one features a compartment for wine and one for wafers.
The priest nearly always prepares the home Mass, sick call kit, or viaticum provisions personally, but the altar guild may well be required to wash and iron linens for the kit, and from time to time may be asked to clean and polish the vessels . If you are asked to wash up after a home communion, or sick call, all the usual rules apply to handling consecrated elements- with water and wine residue from the chalice being put down a piscina or into the earth. The small linens (corporal and purificator) should be blessed. The lavabo towel does not require it, although frequently whole sets are blessed as a unit. If you must dispose of worn linen, it must be burned if it has been blessed.
The photo above shows a pocket pyx. We have already discussed pyxes on the site at great length under the Metalware catagory. The pocket pyx is the form which looks a lot like a pocket watch and is generally the style used for emergency trips to deliver consecrated wafer(s). It may fit into the home Mass kit, or more often it is worn around the neck of the priest in a small pyx burse of silk or kid leather on a cord. Burse (boursa) means pouch or small pocket.
If you have worn fair linens or larger small linens which still have areas of good fabric, think about recycling these into small linens for the home Communion kit- a good summer project.
One hears a lot hanging out in sacristies. Over the years the #1 complaint which I have overheard from clergy, and some parishioners too comes after the Dismissal. As the organist prepares to launch into an inspiring postlude-does your altar guild team dash up to the altar and credence table to juggle the metalware, snatch the flower vases for shut-in delivery and clack in high heels across the chancel on the way to the sacristy? If “mea culpa“s the answer, it is not too late to reform! Generally understood in most parishes is that the service has ended and exiting may commence when the acolytes have extinguished the altar candles-in some cases it is more than the two Eucharistic candles and this may take some time if done properly, carefully, and with some decorum. The altar is then covered with the fair linen protector (if not done before putting out the candles), the acolytes step back, genuflect or bow from the waist, and leave the chancel. After a few bars of the postlude, parishioners begin to rise from the pews or chairs and head back down the nave to where the rector is often waiting to greet the flock at the end of the aisle. When the congregation has transferred its attention from the chancel to leaving the sanctuary, it is then timely for the altar guild to exit the sacristy to begin the important business of clearing the credence table, checking for stains or spots, trimming candlewicks, etc.
I have found that an attractive silver tray with side handles, lined with a white linen doily or towel the perfect way to convey all vessels with some gracefulness and safety from the chancel back to the sacristy. In some churches acolytes bring the vessels back to the sacristy, but I would not recommend this for young acolytes as costly metalware is frequently dropped or “juggled” precariously as they attempt to take everything in one trip. Many is the breadbox I have seen with numerous dings in the side or lid or a crooked lid cross. This is an expensive damage to repair.
Changing of the frontal or any major work to be done should be accomplished when all have exited the church. Sometimes one must forfeit the coffee hour treats when duty calls.
I am mourning the demise of the red and black cassocks and white cottas shown in the photo above. Nothing was lovelier than seeing that cheery red cassock on Christmas morning, and the black cassock was always a reminder of Advent and Lent. Altar servers, if young, wore the square-necked short cotta, the Master of Ceremonies a snowy longer surplice, and the adult acolytes a square-necked surplice while the choir wore round-necked surplices over black cassocks. I am not sure how the new altar server white alb came about or if it is mandatory. Apparently it has caught on and is popular in most churches in New England. I am always pleased to visit a church and see the “old-fashioned” style still in use-as is the case still in some Rhode Island parishes. I am not a fan of the white server alb which looks somewhat monastic, is difficult to keep clean, and the cincture ropes are a temptation for knot-tying, fiddling, and such during the service.
The catalogue companies must be rejoicing though-and the number one article I receive for relocation is a red or black acolyte cassock- by the trunkful.
Coming from a Methodist background, I must confess to being very intrigued with the textiles and metalware of the Church. Spending my high school years in a Roman Catholic convent school probably had something to do with fostering an interest in All Things Liturgical. I came right in on the heels of Vatican II, but our nuns were a little slow getting around to the little changes, so I still vividly recall having to wear a little lace veil to Mass (which was in Latin), and seeing all of the textiles from maniples to ciborium veils which were used prior to 1969. In some Episcopal churches, even today, many of these veils, and other textiles may still be seen. The most familiar, of course, is the frontal which covers the altar. Frontals or frontlets are usually in the color of the feast of the day, or liturgical season. They are, in a sense, a veil for the altar. Many churches in our diocese still use the vested chalice which employs a silk chalice veil, usually matching the vestments of the day.
At one time, the patronesses of the parish, who traveled extensively, collected fine linen and lace, often in the form of handkerchiefs, from Italy or Belgium- and donated these items to the sacristy to be used as ciborium veils. Whenever the Blessed Sacrament was transported from the high altar to a chapel altar or elsewhere, a beautiful white linen and lace veil was draped over the ciborium, the sanctus bells were rung, and everyone in the church stopped their work and genuflected when the ciborium passed by. Machine lace was NEVER allowed-only handmade. I have seen several of these ciborium veils with a buttonhole in the center to fit over the ciborium lid cross in Episcopal churches in the diocese when I visit sacristies. Altars which still use a tabernacle situated in the center of an altar retable or gradine will use a pair of tabernacle veils (or curtains) -often in silk the color of the paraments for the day. These are usually fringed, handsomely embroidered, and suspended on a brass rod. Many from the 1800-1900’s have small ivory rings at the top which thread over the rod. Cylindrical tabernacles have a sort of canopy arrangement. Inside the tabernacle (or aumbry) there is often a pair of fine linen veils or curtains. These are sometimes trimmed with fine handmade lace. At St. John’s church we always launder these on Good Friday when the tabernacle is empty and open. I recall the nuns (training we young sacristans) emphatically scolding us that only the priest or deacon should be opening the tabernacle and handling consecrated elements.
Tomorrow- humeral veils, gremial veils- and baldicchinos! I guarantee a bishop will be most impressed if you happen to have a gremial veil in your sacristy! 🙂
3. Ostensorium or monstrance
3a. Lunette or Lunula (is removable from the center of the monstrance and is two glass or crystal lenses holding a consecrated host in between for exposition.) Used for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance or ostensorium.
4. Case for the lunette
5. Theca . 1. A medieval term for the burse or purse, used to
contain the corporal in saying Mass. 2. Also for a portable
shrine. 3. In this diagram the container is on the order of a breadbox to contain congregational wafers on the way to the credence table and is of metal.
6. Ablution Cup- Contains water for the priest to wash fingers- a sort of covered lavabo bowl in this diagram.
7. Pyx or Pyxis- this one is more like a watchcase for carrying consecrated wafers to the sick.
8. Pyx burse usually leatherette lined with silk with cords which pass around the priest’s neck, holds the pyx for safe-keeping during transport to the sick.
9. Large breadbox or wafer cannister
10. Communion paten or patenella, sometimes has one long wooden handle, for use beneath the chin of the communicant to prevent crumbs from dropping.
11. Case for carrying the three oil stocks
12. Metal oil stocks cylinder (separates into three units which thread like a screw together) OI SC OS
Oil of the Sick (“Oleum Infirmorum”)
Oil of Chrism (“Sanctum Chrisma”)
Oil of Catechumens “Oleum Catechumenorum”)
13. Metal individual oil stock (usually an oil container for the sick OI is kept separately as it is used often.
14. Another type of pyx burse or pocket
Although some of these containers we rarely see every day in the sacristy, it is good to know what they are-the language of the sacristy is delightfully full of curious words and history. You may enjoy this link explaining some of the original meanings in a book called GLOSSARY OF LITURGICAL AND
ECCLESIASTICAL TERMS. COMPILED AND ARRANGED BY
THE REV. FREDERICK GEORGE LEE, D.C.L., F.S.A.
VICAR OF ALL SAINTS’, LAMBETH.
Just scroll down awhile to the vocabulary in alphabetical order- fascinating stuff!
Can you name all of these items found in a sacristy? Answers tonight! 🙂 No googling!!
Give Us This Day:
Lenten Reflections On Baking Bread and Discipleship
List Price: $12.00
PAPERBACK , 5 x 7
- Seabury Books
- ISBN-13: 978-1-59627-046-6
Here is a title which you may have missed from Morehouse Publishing. There will be copies at the March 28th Cathedral gathering for your inspection. Here is what the book description has to say:
- Easy-to-make recipes are ideal for families with younger children,church school classes, and pot lucks
- Connecting of baking, food, and social justice make it good Lenten reading for middle and high school youth groups.
- Substantial reflections for prayer groups and Lenten study groups.
- Ecumenical in focus
Ideal for altar guilds and women who bake communion bread who want to make prayer and reflection part of their ministry. Bread speaks to us of our daily reliance upon a Maker, writes Christopher Levan. Perhaps more than any other food it brings us close to our roots as fellow creatures of God’s creation. Bread is an apt metaphor for the spiritual journey.
Give Us This Day offers meditations for every day in Lent, inviting us to connect faith “our daily bread” and the world in which we live, along with recipes that range from Shrove Tuesday “No-Fret Pancakes” to Easter Challah bread. Each of the 40 meditations begins with a scripture verse and a prayer.
I often have been asked for a recommendation for altar wines and wafers. After tasting and testing many varieties for flavor, texture, shelf-life, and price, the Holland-made St. Michael’s whole wheat or white wafer (available in several sizes) gets my endoresement for wafer of choice.
“St. Michael’s Bakery was founded in 1844 by the Roman Catholic Instituut voor Doven (Institute for the Deaf) at Sint-Michielsgestel, Holland to generate funds to provide food and lodging for deaf and hearing-impaired children. Today, St. Michael’s Bakery provides occupational therapy for deaf and hearing-impaired adults and revenue for the International Assistance Program, which is a hallmark of the Instituut voor Doven. The goal of the Institute is to enable the deaf and hearing-impaired to function as independently as possible”. The product arrives in a heavy plastic cannister which keeps the contents fresh and crisp even in humid summer sacristies. To order please contact Meyer Vogelpohl (also request a catalogue) at this link: http://www.mvchurchgoods.com/listing.lasso?id=stMichael&label=communion
We have discussed good altar wines on the site before, but St. Michael’s RED from New York’s Onehda Vineyard has long been a favorite of our bishop, and has found favor among congregations all over the state. It may be ordered by the case (12 bottles) from Egan’s( links on the right side of the website page). The vineyard does not sell direct to churches, only through church suppliers. We will be sampling St. Michael’s bread and wine at the upcoming Altar Guild Gathering on March 28th.