I will go unto the altar of God, even unto the God of my joy and gladness. – Ps. 43:4
The Acolyte Guild of the Church of the Advent serves God in the Church and in this parish by preparing for, assisting in, and leading the celebration of the public worship of the church on Sundays and Holy Days, and by helping the parish attain a greater sense of reverence through our example of service and commitment both at the altar and in the community.
Qualifications for Membership
Any adult member of the parish whose baptism is on record in the parish office and who pledges to the Church of the Advent and attends Mass regularly may apply for membership in the Guild, subject to the following conditions:
• Familiarity with the liturgy
• A sense of rhythm/timing
• The ability to work in a team
• Experience in appearing before the public (desirable)
• Availability to serve Sundays and feast days (weeknights)
Performance Expectations and Norms for Servers
Service at the altar requires the ability to worship while performing the duty of the assigned position. This means that, at the altar, servers may not be able to participate in the private devotions and acts of reverence that they may exercise in the pew. Liturgical leadership means deferring one’s private worship to corporate participation in common prayer.
Servers are also members of the Altar Guild and will be assigned either regular duties, such as mass setup or cassock laundering, or special projects, such as thurible cleaning or polishing which are done in preparation for the Christmas and Holy Week celebrations. These duties will be assigned after consultation with the Warden and Sacristan.
While each server brings his or her own gifts to public worship, anonymity at the altar – in both appearance and conduct – is the standard for everyone. Servers are expected to wear white shirts, black shoes and hose, and no visible jewelry other than wedding rings or wristwatches (religious medals may be worn over the cassock but under the cotta). The parish will normally provide cassock and cotta; however, if the server has a special need, or would prefer his or her own cassock, this may be purchased at the server’s own expense in consultation with the Sacristan. It is recommended that the server wait until the probationary period is over before purchasing vestments.
Service at the altar requires extraordinary teamwork and coordination; consequently a general rehearsal is held each fall to prepare servers, and special rehearsals are held before Holy Week and other special masses as the need arises. Attendance at these rehearsals is required of all servers – those who do not attend the rehearsal should not expect to serve the mass.
Attendance – Any server who is unable to serve must notify the Warden (or his or her designee) as soon as the anticipated absence is known. If a server is ill on Sunday morning and cannot reach the Warden, s/he should call the MC or call the church (617/523-2377) and leave a message.
Scheduling – Notice of unavailability to serve must be submitted to the Warden either in writing or by phone by the 15th of the previous month. For example, schedule requests for the month of June should be in by May 15th. If a server is unable to serve on a given day once the schedule has come out, please notify the Warden as soon as possible. DO NOT make schedule changes independently.
Preparation and cleanup – All servers are expected to assist with preparation and cleanup. If a server will be working at coffeehour or teaching a class, s/he should let the Warden know prior to the time the schedule is made so that s/he can be scheduled off for that day.
Leave of absence – Servers may take a leave of absence for a specified period of time. They may resume service after consultation with the Warden. For leaves of one year or greater, return to service will depend upon the need of the Guild and the server may not necessarily return to the previous level of service upon return. Each case will be reviewed individually.
Resignations – A server may resign at any time without giving a reason, by notifying the Warden. It is expected that the server will consider the needs of the Guild prior to resigning, e.g., not immediately prior to Holy Week.
Dismissal – A server who does not maintain the initial conditions for membership, i.e., pledging and attendance at Mass; who is absent twice without notifying the Warden; or who demonstrates consistently bad behavior (insubordination, rudeness to clergy or other servers, poor care of vessels or vestments, failure to follow the customs of the parish) shall be subject to immediate dismissal by the Warden of the Guild. Notification of a server’s dismissal shall be given to the Rector.
Training and Advancement
The following guidelines pertain to the recruitment, training, and development of those wishing to serve in the Acolyte Guild of this parish as servers at the Solemn Mass. All candidates will inform the Warden of the Acolytes of their interest and be interviewed by the Warden and at least one other MC before they are considered for the training program.
Once a person has qualified for the training program, s/he will be assigned a mentor who will individually instruct and guide the trainee in the entry level position of Torch.
• As far as possible the new server will be assigned for three consecutive weeks as a Torchbearer, with a threemonth probationary period and review.
• After each Mass the mentor will review with the trainee progress to date.
• At the end of the probationary period, one of the following decisions will be made, after discussion with the trainee, mentor, MCs, and Warden of the Acolytes:
1. the trainee will continue serving;
2. the trainee will be given more intensive training; or
3. the trainee will discontinue serving.
The service positions ascend in degree of difficulty and are generally as follows:
5. Chalice Minister
6. Subdeacon/Master of Ceremonies
Criteria for promotion include, but are not limited to:
• Competent performance of assigned duties
• Liturgical decorum
• Attention to detail
• Demonstrated ability to work as a member of the team
• Willingness to follow directions given by mentor and/or MC
• Ability to accept and act upon suggestions to improve serving skills.
Servers do not automatically proceed to the next position. Assessment for promotion to a more difficult level of service is carried out by the mentor, MCs, and Warden. This review process is generally conducted in the spring so experience in the new position may be gained during the summer months in a less stressful setting. The Warden of the Acolytes may assign a new mentor for advanced positions.
In order to be considered for the role of Subdeacon, a server must demonstrate ability to read clearly in public, be familiar with the lectionary, and be willing to undergo diocesan training, if required, in order to be licensed to administer communion. In addition, a server who attains the level of Subdeacon should be prepared to assume the role of MC at the same time. The SD/MC must have a clear understanding of the liturgy, including the roles of the celebrant and deacon, and have demonstrated proficiency in serving at all previous levels. SDs/MCs must be able to prepare the vessels and vestments for mass in the event of an emergency. In addition, the prospective SD/MC must show leadership potential as evidenced by the ability to write customary notes for special services, mentor new servers, and be a positive role model for other servers as well as the congregation at large, by virtue of the visibility of the position. Because the roles of SD and MC constitute parish leadership positions, these persons should also have an understanding of the culture and history of the parish.
MCs also meet with the Warden and Rector to make decisions about promotions, plan liturgies, and to conduct rehearsals.
Be not now negligent, for the Lord has chosen you to stand by his presence, to minister to him, and to be his ministers. – II Chron. 29:11
© Julianne E. Turé and William J. Theisen 1999