The ministry of the Altar Guild is to care for the altar, vestments, vessels, and altar linens of the parish. Altar Guild members prepare the sanctuary for services and clean up afterwards. Altar Guild members also frequently supervise the decoration of the sanctuary of the parish with flowers — although in some congregations there is a separate Flower Guild that prepares the flowers and often delivers them to the sick and shut in after the service.
Church Publishing offers several resources for Altar Guilds including A Working Manual for Altar Guild by Dorothy Diggs, The New Altar Guild Book by Barbara Gent and Betty Sturges, The Complete Training Course for Altar Guilds by B. Don Taylor and Meditations for Altar Guild Members by Caroline Conklin. Altar Guilds interested making vestments might also find Vestments for all Seasons by Barbara Dee Baumgarten useful.
There is a National Altar Guild Association (NAGA) website which includes
- General Articles about this ministry
- Wedding Guides
- Observing Liturgical Traditions
- In the Sacristy offer tips like how to turn your palms into ashes, how to take care of candles or make palm crosses, etc.
- Instructions on Care and Cleaning
- And more! Check it out.
NAGA is a diverse ministry. Members come from both sexes, all ethnic groups and ages. They follow various styles of worship and interpretations of theology within the Church. They offer many individual gifts and talents, such as needle arts, flower arranging, writing, speaking and teaching.
They provide members with a variety of valuable and informative resources:
- You’ll receive a quarterly newsletter, the Epistle, offering news from altar guilds around the country, helpful information and hints, as well as interpretations and guidelines for services, seasons, and specific ceremonies.
- You may participate in stoles-making projects for chaplains who serve under the Bishop of the Armed Forces.
- You may borrow from our extensive collection of books on subjects related to altar guild interests—needle arts, flower arranging, liturgical, history and practice, etc.—which is housed at Nashotah House and available to anyone through inter-library loan.
- You may attend our triennial meeting during General Convention and contribute items of ecclesiastical art to be displayed in our art exhibit.
- You may “shop” at our Sacristy Shop, featuring items designed specifically for NAGA such as aprons, tote bags, cincture starters and purificator stamps.
- You may request that a NAGA representative (usually the president) speak about NAGA and its ministry for diocesan groups and others.
Sanctify my life and consecrate my hands so that I may worthily handle those Sacred Gifts which are being offered to You.
As I handle holy things, grant that my whole life may be illuminated and blessed by You, in whose honor I prepare them, and grant that the people who shall be blessed by their use, may find their lives drawn closer to Him Whose Body and Blood is our hope and our strength, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
by The Rt. Rev. E. Don Taylor, Vicar Bishop of New York City