Very few churches have the luxury of air-conditioning in the humid months, and vestments take a beating in the weeks of high humidity. Always be sure every vestment is completely dry before putting back in the closet or drawer. The necklines of vestments, especially chasubles and stoles receive the most damage. At one time stole protectors were seen on every stole in inventory. Some were very fancy linen affairs, heavily trimmed with handmade lace. A stole protector can be plain and serviceable or ornate. It should be applied with a basting stitch so that it can be removed for laundering. Even a wide bit of cotton lace can be used as a protector. In this age of seldom-seen amices, the neckline of expensive vestments can be prolonged in good repair by the use of stole protectors. Here are a few from St. Veronica’s Guild. Remember to keep your sacristy extra spotless, well-aired, and dehumidified during the summer months when all manner of mildew, pollen, mold spores and other pollutants are in the air.
Last Sunday altars were ablaze for Pentecost with fiery red “tongues” of gladioli, smoldering tritomas, and sizzling gerberas, but Trinity Sunday will bring a very different approach to the altar flowers. I am a fan of all-white arrangements. Did you know that the family request for all funeral flowers for Frank Sinatra was for all -white arrangements? (bit of useless trivia). There is just something elegant about all-white flowers- and as one of my nun teachers at college once said, “Simplicity is the soul of elegance”.
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.
Right now lily of the valley is out in abundance. Perhaps a fragrant low bowl of these at the end of the aisle or in the narthex or entry would be an idea for Sunday. Bridal wreath, a type of fluffy white spirea is now in full bloom in its cascading tendrils like a fountain. Alas, white lilac has come and gone as Trinity is too late for it this year and the New England warm Spring has made everything bloom ahead of schedule.
Bridal Wreath Spirea
Don’t forget flowering trees! The Kousa (Cornus kousa) dogwood has just burst open here in Rhode Island and the sleek green leaves and creamy white stars look divine in brass vases. Nothing else is needed. White is serene, cooling in humid summery weather, and quietly elegant at all times of year . Do send us your images of white altar flower arrangements. You will enjoy this version of St. Patrick’s Breastplate.
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.
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.
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.
Martha Stewart’s Crystal Glitter
I was excited to find Martha Stewart’s excellent fine glitter at Walmart’s yesterday. This is the old-fashioned lovely stuff which has a glint like sun on new-fallen snow. Although I run from a “Vegas” Christmas decor for churches in general, a touch of crystal or silvery glitter on natural branches, applied with a light hand, can add a whole new dimension.
A cardboard box lid makes a handy tray for overall “glittering” of foliage and twigs. Spray adhesive (comes in a can like hairspray) is just the thing, applied lightly. Sprinkle glitter immediately over wet adhesive, wait a few moments, then tap off excess and catch it for reuse in the cardboard lid. For spot glittering, tacky glue, or other liquid adhesives and clear glues are effective. A few glittered twigs or sprigs of greens and foliage in pew ends catch the glow of candlelight in a darkened church on Christmas Eve night. The aim is not to overdo the gilding and glittering! A little will go a long way, and will look like the diamond glint of snow.
One year my decorating scheme was Glad Tidings By the Sea as our parish was right on Narragansett Bay. We used strands of white lights which were encased by scallop shells (still available at the Christmas Tree Shop), pearl roping, and many beautiful sand dollars and seashells just kissed with silver and crystal glitter, small aqua and silver balls, and feather sea gulls- lovely!
Natural silvery birch branches simply arranged in a garden urn (which may be faux-finished to look like wrought iron or stone) add a wintery touch without the glitter. No birch branches handy? Any type of branch can receive a light aerosol spray painting of white or silver-nature’s own sculpture can’t be beat! The aim is to achieve as natural a look as possible when gilding or applying glitter. Red, green, blue, rainbow and other colored glitters will produce an artificial effect you will want to avoid like the flu! Another product is Sno-flock which produces a white snowy coating on branches and greens. This product has been around for many years, and with a controlled finger on the nozzle, can be used to get a wonderful snowy effect. Glitter- it’s a GOOD thing.
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.
Hard to believe but the season after Pentecost is fast drawing to an end and already it is time to get your order in for Advent candles and to hunt up the Advent candle ring. If you use a fresh green wreath from the florist, most shops appreciate an order placed two weeks before to guarantee you will get just what you need. The Farmer’s Daughter (Kingston) and Schartner’s Farms (Exeter)make up a beautiful fresh green wreath to order if you drop off your ring. With a little green wire you can purchase a fresh ring to fit and wire it to your frame yourself.
Last year we ordered the 16 inch pillar candles which burned evenly and looked great with brass followers. There is so much candle left that we plan to use them again this year. Some candle companies will buy back used candles and give a wax credit, but usually this is for a Paschal candle and not for the purple and pink candles of Advent. With the cost of a new set being in the 50-60 dollar range, it makes sense to use up what’s in the sacristy. To freshen last year’s candles, moisten a soft cotton cloth with vegetable oil such a Wesson, Crisco, etc., wipe the length of the candle to remove dull film and dust, then wipe off the excess and buff the candles gently until they shine again. Trim wicks neatly and the candle is all ready for another season. Using a follower of brass or glass will help get the most out of any candle and will help to avoid wax drips and uneven burning.
Egan Church supplies offers a lower price if you use the online shopping option. Order this week and don’t forget to contact the florist for the fresh greens if you cannot make up a wreath. http://www.eganchurchsupply.com/cs/candles_advent.htm
If you get to Westerly during Advent, Christ Church has traditionally hung fresh boxwood wreaths on their doors with deep purple velvet bows which are exchanged for red on Christmas Eve. Very pretty- and so is the new set of doors on the Elm Street side of Christ Church.
Where did the month of October go? I have been on the road for half the month, visiting parents in Maryland and going to Cape May, N.J. for a Victorian Week vacation. Along the way I have been relocating vestments from the surplus inventory, and visiting a church which was re-installing a large stained glass window that had been cleaned and releaded. (Photos to come of this).
In the sacristy the catalogues have been coming in from church goods companies. Slabbinck has some nice new designs. All Saints Sunday is this weekend and a look at the calendar shows Advent is not too far ahead, November 29th. Already we are digging out our wreath and ordering candles -3 violet and one rose-colored. How the summer has flown by! Have you considered an announcement in your church bulletin giving an opportunity for a sponsor for the Advent green wreath and/or candles to be offered as a memorial -or given in honor or in thanksgiving? Sometimes a ministry within the church likes to undertake the cost for this. Food for thought.
In some churches this Sunday, icons of saints and photographs of our deceased Loved Ones will be brought into the sanctuary. Beautiful flowers will grace our altars, and the green hangings of the Season after Pentecost will get a rest. Please send us a photo of your church on All Saints.
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!
Well, I have left the two rarest of the veils till last. If anyone has either of these in their sacristy- please do share a photo with us. The photo at the left is an ornamental gremial veil, which is worn rather like an apron by a Bishop or Archbishop conferring Orders. It is purely ornamental in this case and you can see it is not utilitarian in any sense. There is however another type of gremial veil worn during the anointing at Confirmation. Sometimes a large amice is substituted upon the lap of the Bishop. The purpose of this veil is to protect the vestments of the Bishop, therefore it should be made of plain white linen or cotton (linen is preferred), and is rarely ornamented. I have seen the faldstool at St. John’s Bowdoin Street in Boston http://stjev.org/ and it is when the Bishop is seated on the faldstool at the center, ready to receive those about to be confirmed or received, that the gremial veil is spread upon the lap. This is usually done by an attendant of the bishop or the Master of Ceremonies. Never seen a faldstool? They come both plain and fancy and are very convenient for the bishop. If your parish does not have one, they are easy enough to make if you have a talented carpenter parishioner in your midst. The original style has no armrests although modified ones are also seen. . There is an excellent article on the gremial (or gremiale) in Roman Catholic usage, including a photo of Pope Benedict wearing a silk one at this link http://www.templestudy.com/2009/03/20/gremiale-apronlike-catholic-liturgical-vestment/comment-page-1/ I have seen the substitution of a large amice at Confirmation in place of the gremial in several churches in the state. Another thoughtful consideration is to have a small tray containing water in a lavabo bowl and small wedges of fresh cut lemon and a fine linen lavabo towel at the ready near at hand for the bishop to wash off the chrism oil at the end of the anointing. Want to make a gremial veil? It should be about 2 feet wide and 3 feet long.
Pius IX’s very fancy faldstool.
Finally, my last word on veils- I would daresay that there is not a communion rail veil in the state. This long, narrow, embroidered and sometimes lace-adorned linen is fairly obsolete in the United States. Once I thought I had found one in East Greenwich but it turned out to be a very long fair linen. As the name implies, this veil covered the altar rail (also an item seen more rarely) to catch crumbs and drops of consecrated elements. Here is a photo-and the only one I have ever seen. Although we may never have an occasion for some of the items mentioned recently, any good sacristan ought to know the terms and history of all sacristy equipment, past and present.
Remember when little girls all wore simple cheesecloth veils for first communion? I found a large box of these in a sacristy closet in Newport a few years ago. Now the little girls are dressed like miniature brides and dripping rhinestone tiaras, full length white formal gowns and stockings. I must be getting old, for I long for those simpler days when the focus was on making the First Communion and not so much on fashions. Everyone looked the same and there was always a family “time” back at the home for the first-time communicant with cake and punch. Up until very recently, altar guild members wore small lace “poufs” on combs in the hair and smocks while working in the sacristy and church. I tried introducing these to my last altar guild- without success! Personally, I like the idea. But then again, I am a hatwearer and hopelessly traditional.
One of my first jobs as a new altar guild directress was to restore an old baldicchino which I found ripped and musty in a box in the choir room. Pronounce the double “ccs” like a “k”. I had seen many Corpus Christi processions in my day, but did not know the term for the canopy-like affair which was carried above the sacrament. Usually four tall men each take one of the corner poles. It is quite a trick for all four to stay in step, spaced properly to keep the baldicchino taunt. It was also quite a trick to re-line that canopy- it all had to be done by hand with numerous yards of white silk. The baldicchino had been given to St. John’s many years before from St. Stephen’s in Providence. If your parish has one-I’d love to have a photo of it. St. John’s also makes use of it on Maundy Thursday when the sacrament makes the journey to the Chapel of Repose-very beautiful to observe. Baldicchino is also an architectural term most are familiar with in connection with the twisted pillar baldicchino by Bernini at St. Peter’s in Rome. Europe is full of altars covered by this type of structure. At one point altars need to be protected from stone dust and debris falling from ceilings. Sometimes a miniature baldicchino of fabric or wood or metal may be observed over wall shrines, statues or wall aumbrys. A hanging pyx may have a metal canopy -somewhere I have a photograph of the hanging pyx with canopy in St. Columba’s Chapel in Middletown. RI which is magnificent.
St. Columba’s must surely be one of the loveliest chapels in the state- and well worth a visit to admire the pyx, the stained glass, the cenotaph to Edwin Booth (actor brother of John Wilkes Booth) -and the lychgate.
No room for humerals and gremials today! Stay tuned.