Directions for the Altar Guild

Vestments – in drawer beneath vesting altar, label according to day and time:
— Chasuble, stole and maniple (if the set includes a maniple)
Vessels – in compartment in sofe, label according to day and time:
— Chalice, purificator, paten, priest’s Host, pall, veil, burse with corporal; bread box (for masses with expected attendance greater than 25 people or as requested by clergy), cruets with wine and water (fill to handle), lavabo bowl and towel

— In Subdeacon’s drawer – tunicle, maniple, cincture, alb (check size chart on lavatory door), amice
— In deacon’s drawer – dalmatic, maniple, stole, cincture, alb, amice
— In drawer beneath vesting altar, labeled with day and time – chasuble, maniple, and stole
— Extra stoles for choir clergy (on bar on end of sofe)
— Chalice, purificator, paten, priest’s Host, pall veil burse with corporal and two purificators
— Ciborium with people’s wafers (100 for 9 AM, 150 for 11AM)
— Large crystal flagon with wine (1.5 cups serves about 100 people)
— Twin chalices with small palls
— Cruets with “A”- water, and “V” – wine
— Lavabo bowl and towel
If there is an extra communion station:
— Chalice and ciborium from solemn mass set not in use
— Extra ciborium for second station at high altar

— Sexton will fill font with warm water just prior to the start of the service and raise the font cover
— Silver shell
— Chrism (from holy oil aumbry in All Saints’ Chapel)
— Aspergillum and aspersorium (for aspersing the people on the way back from the font)
— Baptismal ewer full of water (so that the celebrant may pour the water in front of the people)
— Baptismal candle (remove from wrapper)
— Crystal bowl with cotton balls (for celebrant to cleanse fingers after chrismation)
— Large cotton towel
— Prayer books for participants
— Black notebook with Rite I baptismal text ( for Rite I baptisms only)
— Hawk cruet for scooping water out of the font

— Cope and stole for officiant
— Stoles for assisting clergy
— Deacon and subdeacon (if present) in vestments as for mass
— monstrance throne (Large KJV Bible with portable communion set on top) covered with appropriate chalice veil and small corporal to accommodate monstrance
— Large corporal and burse on altar (spread corporal as at canon of the mass)
— Monstrance and veil on table below credence
— Consecrated Host in custodial with small veil (should be in Sacrament House)
— Card with Benediction service for officiant
— Carillon
— Humeral veil
— Benediction lights – Place on mensa of altar between outermost office lights
— Lectionary or Bible on lectern marked with beginning and conclusion of lessons.

Solemn or Low Mass set-up (verify color with clergy – either white, black, or purple)
Lectionary on lectern marked for appointed lessons. Gospel book Prayer books.
Paschal candle at head of coffin
If the body is present:
— Pall for coffin (either white or purple)
— Bier lights and coffin stand
If the body has been cremated:
— Two bier lights
— Table and extra chalice veil for container with ashes. If the color is white, cover with child’s pall.
Aspersorium with Holy water
Thurible with lighted coals (be sure sextons have turned off fire alarm)
Families often bring extra flowers. Be prepared to place them discreetly in visible places. Flower stands are behind reredos and in flower room.
Cloak, biretta, and container of earth at back of church if Cel is to accompany body to cemetery.

— Verify vestment requests with clergy and Flower Guild
— Solemn or Low Mass set-up as appropriate
— If not a Mass, officiant will wear stole and cope
— Table for register (office staff must provide register)
— Cushions for bride and groom to kneel (or may use usual altar rail cushion)
— Chapel chairs from crypt placed on nave floor in front of pews for wedding party
— If wedding party is to be seated in chancel for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, they sit in choir stalls or at prie-dieu set off to the side of the choir.
— Paten with small purificator and aspersorium to bless rings
— Lectionary or readings for lectern
— Prayer books for all participants

— Holy Oil stocks (fill with cotton ball soaked with holy oil)
— Crystal bowl with cotton balls for the celebrant to purify the hands after anointing

Roles and Responsibilities of the Acolyte Warden

The Warden is a member of the parish who is ultimately responsible for the staffing and direction of all liturgical services at the church. The Warden is responsible for the recruitment, training, development, scheduling, and supervision of the members of the Acolytes Guild.

The Warden serves as a member of the Liturgical Committee together with the Rector, other clergy, Parish Administrator, Sacristan, Liturgical Arts Director, and Choirmasters.

The Warden must have experience as a Master of Ceremonies; have a strong sense of the specifics of the liturgical life of the parish; be able to communicate clearly, both orally and in writing, detailed liturgical instructions; and have the ability to motivate the group to its highest level of performance.

The Warden must show evidence of personal maturity in faith so as to be able to maintain an atmosphere of devout yet joyous service.

The Warden must have previous experience in management or a leadership position. Teaching ability with all age groups is necessary. The Warden must have a basic understanding of church, parish, and liturgical history.

The Warden is appointed by and reports to the Rector. The Warden supervises members of the Acolytes Guild. He or she will communicate regularly with the Parish Administrator regarding special services such as weddings, funerals and baptisms, and will also make the Administrator aware of special needs involving the distribution of monthly schedules and associated material. The Warden works closely with the Sacristan to maintain smooth coordination of preparations for services.

The Warden will be evaluated at least annually by the Rector regarding his or her effectiveness in leading the group, based on the effectiveness of liturgical preparation, the functioning of the group as it relates to the spiritual development of its members, and to working relationships with other staff members and lay leaders.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Sacristan

The sacristan is a member of the parish who is ultimately responsible for the material preparations for all liturgical services at the church. The sacristan is responsible for the recruitment, training, development, scheduling and supervision of the members of the Altar Guild. The average weekly time commitment is eight to twelve hours per week.

The sacristan serves as a member of the Liturgical Planning Committee and as an adviser to the Gifts and Memorials Committee and Property Committee. The sacristan manages the Altar Guild budget.

The person must have experience on the Altar Guild preparing vessels, vestments, and candles; have a strong sense of the specifics of the liturgical life of the parish; and have the ability to motivate the group to its highest level of performance.

The sacristan must show evidence of personal maturity in faith as to be able to maintain an atmosphere of devout yet joyous service.

The sacristan must have previous experience in management or a leadership position. Teaching ability with all age groups is necessary. The sacristan must have basic understanding of church, parish, and liturgical history. Understanding of textiles and sewing is also important.

The sacristan is appointed by and reports to the rector. The sacristan supervises members of the Altar Guild. He or she will communicate regularly with the Parish Administrator regarding special services such as weddings, funerals and baptisms and will also make the Administrator aware of special needs involving the work of the sextons (cleaning, moving of furniture, fans, etc.) The sacristan will work closely with the director of the Flower Arranging Guild to coordinate flowers and devotional displays. The sacristan represents the parish to the diocesan altar guild. The sacristan also works closely with the Acolyte Warden to ensure smooth coordination of preparations for services.

The sacristan will be evaluated at least annually by the rector regarding his or her effectiveness in leading the group, based on the effectiveness of service preparation, the functioning of the group as it relates to the spiritual development of its members, and to working relationships with other staff members and lay leaders.

Liturgical Appurtenances

Special Attire:
The Celebrant wears a cope for any Feast which includes a Solemn Procession (see list under “Altar Hardware” below). Processions are also provided for those Sundays in Lent on which the Great Litany is sung.

On Advent Sunday only, all three Sacred Ministers wear copes for the Solemn Procession. Copes are removed in the sacristy at the conclusion of the procession and vestments in the proper liturgical color of Advent are worn for the remainder of the Mass.

Tunicle(s) are worn by the crucifer(s) only on Christmas Eve and Easter Day. At the discretion of the Rector, this provision may be extended to include Pentecost and Christ the King and other special celebrations, such as the Institution of a Rector. A second thurifer and crucifer may be used for the same. Note that a second thurifer is specified in the customary for Corpus Christi, Maundy Thursday, and Te Deum.

Altar Hardware (except where noted, Solemn Masses on these days normally include a Procession):

1. The Upper Tier of altar candles:
Advent Sunday (Feast of Dedication & Title)
Christmas Eve
New Year’s Eve (Lessons & Carols)
Easter Eve and Easter Day
Ascension Day (we have not in the past had a Procession on this day)
Trinity Sunday (Te Deum, no Procession)
Corpus Christi
Assumption (when it is celebrated with a Solemn Mass)
All Saints Day
The Feast of Christ the King (Procession and Te Deum)
Any other Feast day observed with a Solemn Mass
Other occasions of great importance, such as the Institution of a Rector.

1a. When the Bishop of the Diocese (the Ordinary) is present at Mass, a seventh candle is placed in the center of the gradine and lit. This provision applies only to Mass and not to any other service.

2a. The Crystal Crucifix – same as #1 above.

2b. The Festal Brass Cross :
any Sundays falling between Christmas and Epiphany
Sundays in Eastertide
other Feasts for which the Crystal Crucifix is not used (e.g., Thanksgiving Day).

2c. The Dominical Brass Cross:
all Sundays in Ordinary Time, including Sundays between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday
Sundays in Advent.

2d. The Plain Wooden Cross :
Ash Wednesday
all Sundays in Lent
Palm Sunday
Maundy Thursday

3. The Brass-covered Gospel Book – same as for the Upper Tier and the Crystal Crucifix.

4. The Burning Bushes (Note that this list is not the same as #1, 2a, 3 above):
Feast of Title & Dedication
Christmas Eve
Christmas Day
Sunday after Christmas
New Year’s Eve
Candlemas (when solemnized)
Easter Vigil and Easter Day
Ascension Day
Pentecost Sunday*
Trinity Sunday*
Corpus Christi
Feast of Christ the King*

* If any of these masses is celebrated with an Orchestra, the Burning Bushes will not be used, due to space considerations in the chancel.

5. The Jeweled Vessels:
Christmas Eve
Easter Vigil
Easter Day
Other occasions of great importance, such as the Institution of a Rector, that would warrant one of the Wardens being present to open the safe.

Liturgical Customary: Preparation and Cleanup

Preparation and clean-up, while not a liturgical action per se, do contribute to the atmosphere of prayer, both for servers and congregation. All the rules of liturgical etiquette and deportment are to be observed. The MC is responsible for checking all preparations and supervising the proceedings. Cassock and cincture are worn, and cotta or surplice should be left in smoke sacristy until needed. Hands are to be held joined at the breast. Walk with dignity, but not at a funereal pace. You may speak as duty requires, but speak softly out of respect for both Our Lord in the Reserved Sacrament, and the organist or other musicians who will be performing the prelude and postlude. When walking in pairs, or passing in opposite directions, genuflect together at center, even if you must wait a moment for the other person to meet you. This will convey a greater sense of calm to the congregation than if there is a lot of bobbing-up-and-down.

The vessels for Mass will be set out on the table in the smoke sacristy by the Altar Guild. There will be a chalice covered with ( in order) a purificator, paten, priest’s host, pall, veil, and a burse with corporal and two small purificators. There will be the twin chalices with a small pall over each, a lavabo bowl and towel, a bread box with extra people’s wafers (these may be needed if an extraordinarily large congregation appears) two silver cruets (A should have aqua/water, and V should have vino/wine). The ciborium with the people’s wafers and the flagon of wine to be carried up in the offertory procession as well as a slip listing the available amounts of wafers are left on the sofe in the priests’ sacristy. The verger is responsible for taking them to the baptistry, where he lights the candles there. But it is the responsibility of the MC to see that this is done. After the MC checks all the vessels, the acolytes may take them out and place them on the credence in their customary position. Please make sure that the veil on the chalice does not hang loosely – the bottom of the veil should touch the linen on the credence.

Anytime after the celebrant sets the Missal (labeled 11:00-RITE I), it may be placed on the Missal stand on the table below the credence. The Gospel Book should be set to the appropriate reading and left on sofe above the deacon’s drawer. The lectionary, open to the correct Old Testament lection – verify by consulting the Sunday bulletin – should be set out on the lectern. Check to make sure that the light on the lectern is plugged into the socket on the floor. There should be water glasses in the pulpit, and in front of the innermost epistle side candlestick on the altar gradine. This will not, then, be visible from the congregation. Two hymnals may be set out on the acolytes’ chairs, marked with programs, for the hymn following the Gospel. Two more hymnals, a program, the intercessions folder, and a large edition Prayer Book, marked at the Whole-State prayer, are placed at the stool beside the MC’s chair. The pillow on the table below the credence should be empty awaiting the Gospel Book after the proclamation of the Gospel. Torchbearers may place hymnals out on their chairs. The spine of the book should always face the congregation.

All Saints Chapel needs to be prepared for the distribution of communion by removing the dustcover from the altar after the candles have been lighted. The sextons are responsible for lighting the hanging lamps at the High Altar, the Presence lamp after the Sacrament has been transferred, and the All Saints Chapel sanctuary lamp. The MC should be place the veil over the door to the Sacrament House after the transfer from the Lady Chapel has taken place if the clergy person responsible has not done so. If the Lady Chapel will be used for Communion, then the dustcover there must removed and hidden from sight behind the server’s stall, and ONLY the two lights on the lower gradine lighted. The sexton will also turn off the fire alarm.

During Eastertide, the aspersorium with the aspergillum and a small amount of holy water should be placed on the step nearest the epistle side pavement light. In the event of a procession, the celebrant’s chasuble, together with all three maniples, should be laid over the altar rail; near the sedilia.

After Mass, in the baptistry, the servers give their communion counts to the MC, and servers not carrying cross or candles collect the vestments, which they will place on the chair in priests’ sacristy. Still vested, the subdeacon will walk down the Lady Chapel aisle, go through the Lady Chapel, enter the ambit of the altar at the opening near the sedilia (not center), go to the credence to retrieve veiled chalice, and exit to smoke sacristy. Then the servers appointed to remove the book and replace the dustcover may enter. After the servers appointed to extinguish the candles have entered, other servers may begin to clear vessels from the credence and books from the lectern. The bag in the alms basin goes in the safe in the smoke sacristy. The alms basin should be placed on the chair or the table in the smoke sacristy. Hymnals are returned to the shelf in smoke sacristy. The Missal and the Gospel Book go back in appropriately marked boxes in the sofe together with the lectionary and Prayer Book. When not in use in Mass, the Intercessions Book resides on the vesting altar in priests’ sacristy. The sermon text should be placed on the desk in the priests’ sacristy. Then, assist with cleaning of vessels, as needed. Remember, any vessel or linen that has come into contact with consecrated bread or wine must be rinsed in the piscina.


Candles will ordinarily be lighted and extinguished by two servers, both for gracefulness, speed, and the convenience of avoiding remembering which side has to be done first. To light candles, walk in together, genuflect at center above the altar rail, proceed to the top step (footpace/predella) as a pair, and light the candles closest to the cross and work OUTWARDS (that is, spread the light of Christ). Continue with the pavement lights. Meet at center, descend remaining altar steps, turn, genuflect above altar rail, and exit to smoke sacristy. On the great feasts, the upper tier of office lights is lighted. Because of the extra time and effort involved. these should be lighted first and extinguished last.

The function of the blue cloth (dustcover) is to protect the altar and fair linen from dust and wax, especially that which may fall from a lighted candlelighter. To remove the blue cloth, starting with the Gospel side, pick up each corner of the outside hem and bring it to center. Similarly, bring the fold to the center. Repeat for the Epistle side. Finally, fold the Epistle half onto the Gospel half and remove the cloth from the altar.

After Mass, the two servers appointed wait for the subdeacon to retrieve the chalice. Then, with the server on the left carrying the blue cloth, both go out together to center, genuflect, and ascend the altar steps to the footpace. The server on the right picks up the Missal stand (hold the Missal to prevent its falling), goes to center, genuflects, and exits. The server with the cloth aligns the cross on the cloth with the cross on the fair linen, takes hold of a hem, and pulls it gently along the Gospel side of the altar to spread the cloth. Repeat this action on the other side. Remove the water glass, make a simple bow, exit to the side, and genuflect on the pavement before exiting to the smoke sacristy.

The two servers extinguishing the candles enter, genuflect on the pavement (above the altar rail), split, and ascend to the third step, where they turn out and extinguish the pavement lights. They then ascend to the footpace and extinguish the candles outside to center. Try to stay approximately together, but this should not give appearance of being militarily precise or fussy. When done, make a simple bow to the cross and descend to the pavement, genuflect, and exit to smoke sacristy. One server should extinguish the candles in the All Saints’ Chapel (and the Lady Chapel if used for Communion) after the cloth is spread there.

A Primer on Liturgical Etiquette


Those who serve at God’s altar work in community to celebrate the mysteries of God’s presence among humankind revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, leading God’s people in worship demands a degree of anonymity in deportment in order to focus the entire congregation on the object of our liturgical action. 

This anonymity begins with dress.  A white dress shirt, black hose and black shoes are required of all servers.  Trouser legs that extend past cassock hems should be rolled up until they are no longer visible.  Dangling earrings should be removed, as should visible jewelry other than wedding rings or wrist­watches. St. Vincent medals or other religious insignia may be worn over the cassock, but inside the cotta.  Black cas­sock, with black rope cincture fastened at the left side, should be ankle-length.  Red cassocks are not worn at any time.  Cottas should reach to the hip.  Knee-length surplices are worn only by choir ministers and clergy.  Only the MC wears a Florentine style (lace-trimmed) surplice, so that the celebrant may easily identify him/her. 

A note about summer: Brick buildings, like brick ovens, absorb heat rapidly and retain it for days.  This is a boon to pizza parlors but misery to summertime acolytes in a church devoid of air-conditioning.   Common sense should therefore take precedence in matters of dress.  While black hose* and black shoes are mandatory at all times, shorts and white t-shirts are perfectly acceptable under the cassock.  Subdeacons may omit the cassock and wear amice and alb over street clothes as long as said clothes will not show through. (A liberal application of anti-static spray is recommended, however.)  *Female subdeacons may wear white hose and black shoes – black hose would show through the alb.  A long slip is also recommended! 


Silence should be maintained in the hallway and sacristies during preparation for Mass.  Any necessary conversation should be limited to the purpose of preparing for Mass.  Discussion of other matters should be saved for Coffee Hour.  Short of calling others’ attention to immediate threats of well-being – “Don’t look now, but a free-range thurible is hurtling toward your head!” – cultivate the discipline of silence when not making the appropriate liturgical responses.  Display a posture of poised attentiveness, of being “in the moment” while considering your next immediate movement.  When seated, do not slouch, cross your legs,[1] or perform any acts of personal hygiene you wouldn’t want captured on film for your mother to see.  Sit with the back relatively straight, placing the hands flat upon the knees.  You may fold your hands on your lap in a way that avoids the “Freudian clutch,” but hands flat upon the knees are preferred. 

The clergy need time to prepare for worship, too.  Unless a server’s presence is requested by the MC, servers should respect the privacy of the priests’ sacristy and remain in the smoke sacristy until summoned.

While the clergy would be the first to remind us that they are human too, proper respect is due to their office.  The Rector in particular is our father in God and as such his word is law.  Insubordination or rudeness toward the clergy will not be tolerated.  If a cleric makes a liturgical decision with which you do not agree, bite your tongue and follow instructions.  Disagreements or differences of opinion are to be settled privately, not during Mass or in the presence of others. 

Clerics are addressed according to their orders and preferences of style, or “sir”/“ma’am”.  Although some clerics may allow or even prefer use of their Christian names, do not assume that such informality automatically applies to new members of the staff or to guests: until a new or visiting cleric directs otherwise, he or she is to be addressed by the appropriate title.  Within the context of the liturgy the formal titles are used at all times unless a rubric specifically directs otherwise (as in the ceremonial for the Institution of a Rector).  Even if the cleric is your lifelong best friend and you are still threatening to tell his mother about that childhood indiscretion involving his kid sister, the lizard, and the neighbor’s vegetable garden, the dignity of his office should be honored when he is executing the functions of that office.  

A bishop, when present, is to be addressed as “Bishop” or “sir”/“ma’am.”  Anglicans though we are, this is America; the title “my Lord [Bishop]” is appropriate only to certain prelates of the Church of England.  Honorifics such as “Your Grace” are reserved for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.  The same directives apply to bishops of other communions.  

The theology and praxis of the Church of the Advent are shaped and informed by the historic Church Catholic. As such our overall perspective is a conservative one. However, we are not monolithic in our views and toleration for varieties of opinion is one of the hallmarks of Anglican tradition. During the liturgy you may hear or see some statement or practice with which you personally disagree. It is your duty as a minister of the service to keep your opinions – and personal devotional practices – to yourself while carrying out your role in the liturgy. If you wish to discuss your differences, do so away from the Mass. Disruption of the liturgy in any manner will not be tolerated.

On a lighter note, it will become apparent throughout this Customary that in this community the proviso of “a language understanded of the people” (Article XXIV of the Thirty-Nine Articles) does not necessarily restrict our liturgical usage to English. While some knowledge of ecclesiastical Latin is not a requirement for service, it is certainly helpful!


As noted above, leaders of worship must not draw attention to themselves, but to God who is the focus of the liturgy. Despite the considerable temptation to think otherwise, even the most elaborate Solemn Mass is not a Broadway show; there are no “stars” in worship other than Almighty God. Servers must cultivate an attitude of self-effacement during the service. Individual acts or postures of devotion are not appropriate when serving, nor are exaggerated gestures or speech beyond the normative range. In short, anything that draws attention to the individual rather than to the corporate act of worship is a distraction and should be avoided. Believe it or not, it is possible to manage anything up to and including a medical emergency or an outbreak of fire without attracting the congregation’s notice.


When walking, hold yourself straight with your shoulders back and your head erect. Face directly the point to which you are headed. In general, except when you are seated, carrying a hymnal or torch, or performing a ceremonial action such as crossing yourself, you should join your hands palm to palm, not merely fingers to fingers. Insofar as you are physically able, fully extend your fingers and hold them together, crossing the thumbs over each other in the form of a cross. Fingers should point slightly upward, not toward the ground or straight out. Hold elbows close to the body and keep hands more or less at the height of the breast. Whether standing, sitting, genuflecting, or kneeling, keep eyes straight ahead or focused on the liturgical action. When seated on the Gospel side of the nave (to your left as you face the altar), avoid leaning forward or physically straining to hear the sermon. Do not lean on the bishop’s throne or use it as an armrest. Also, do not place glasses, hymnals, or programs on the bishop’s throne; despite considerable evidence to the contrary, the Advent respects its canonically consecrated bishops and the symbols of their authority.

Servers with nothing else to carry may elect to carry in hymnals or to walk empty-handed. Either way, pairs must be uniform; servers in pairs always mirror each other.

Servers face across chancel at all times except when facing the Gospel Book during the reading of the Gospel. Especially when seated in the crucifer’s stall, avoid turning to look at the preacher or checking to make sure that Aunt Tillie and Uncle Al found their seats. That is, before Mass, make arrangements for childcare or supervision of older adults and then offer it up.

In the presence of the Sacrament: When the Consecrated Elements are exposed on the Altar (e.g., during Communion or at Benediction), servers should never turn their backs toward the Elements. In practical terms, this means that if a server approaches the mensa for any reason (e.g., to bring up chalices), when leaving the server “crab walks” sideways down the stairs. Under no circumstances should a server everwalk backward down the stairs!

When counting during Communion, servers should not look at the people. Instead, follow the clergy’s hands as they distribute the Sacrament.

How to carry a candle: The outside arm is always down and out.
How to walk and carry a candle at the same time: Step off on left foot first. Pairs should hold their candles at a level. If there is a height disparity between partners, the taller partner should accommodate the shorter by carrying his/her candle lower. Hold the candle far enough out front, without discomfort, so that knees do not knock into it while walking.


Solo right angle turns should be crisp, finding a disciplined medium between a rounded corner and a military pivot. When in pairs, the inner partner takes no steps, but stops and pivots, allowing the outer partner to maintain his or her rhythm – without rushing or taking giant steps – to execute the turn. Picture an opening door: the inner partner acts as the stationary but pivoting pin in the hinge, while the outer partner functions as the moving door. The same principle applies to acolytes and the crucifer in procession, except that the crucifer must coordinate his/her action with the outer acolyte to maintain linear alignment. It is extremely important that at all times, all servers – singly, in pairs, or in groups of three – maintain a consistent rhythm, even when ascending or descending steps.


Except as specified during Holy Week, Corpus Christi, and Benediction, the simple genuflection is considered normative when entering or leaving the ambit of the altar when the Sacrament is present. When making a simple genuflection, touch the right2 knee to the ground, close to the heel of the left foot (unless the genuflection is made on a step). Do not bow the head or prop a hand on the floor; we are not in the huddle before third-and-one on the ten-yard line at the Harvard-Yale Game. Hold your body steady and perfectly erect. Leaning forward while genuflecting (the aforementioned football huddle position) is an invitation to loss of balance and an unplanned, to say nothing of undignified, prostration at some painful cost to your nose. It can also be dangerous, especially if you are holding a charged thurible or any other implement that poses some risk of injury if it comes between you and a hard stone floor. Hold the head straight – even at the name of Jesus – since the act of reverence is fully expressed by the bending of the knee and not by a superfluous bow of the head or body. Parenthetically, this principle applies as well to kneeling. Insofar as you are physically able, maintain the joined-hands position at the breast throughout the genuflection.
Genuflections are made as follows:

Whenever arriving at or leaving the chancel.

  • On MC’s cue, at entrance.
  • At Et Incarnatus in the Creed.
  • On MC’s cue, at final exit at the end of the Mass (except A CR A).

Do not genuflect:

  • When the Sacrament is not present on the Altar or in the Aumbry (some Evensongs; the conclusion of the Maundy Thursday liturgy; Good Friday and the first part of the Easter Vigil).
  • When carrying one of the consecrated Elements.


In liturgical actions, in general, there are three bows: simple, moderate, and profound. The simple bow is a bending of the head only. This bow is made (1) to the cross and altar when the Blessed Sacrament is not present, (2) at the mention of the name Jesus, (3) at the mention of the Blessed Trinity (such as the Gloria Patri), and (4) at certain points in the liturgy, most notably, we worship thee and receive our prayer in the Gloria. The moderate bow, as the designation implies, is never excessive, consisting of a bowing of the head and slight rounding of the shoulders so that, while standing, you should just see your feet. At Masses at the Advent, the moderate bow is reserved for Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts in the Sanctus. The habit of using the moderate bow at the Gloria Patri has crept into our usage in recent years, but it is incorrect and shows an unedifying taste for excessive, one might even say competitive, piety. At the Advent, servers never use the profound bow – made from the waist so that you could touch your knees with your hands – unless following the lead of clergy who are physically unable to genuflect when entering and leaving the altar. The main point is that any gestures that exceed the norms of general usage among servers on the altar break the ideal of the anonymous server. That is, they threaten to hijack worshipers’ attention away from the object of the liturgical action, who is none other than the God of Jesus Christ.

Nod the head:

  • When the Celebrant passes in procession. Some pious folk bow the head every time any cleric passes. This is incorrect.  The bow to the Celebrant acknowledges that person’s role as the offerer of the Eucharistic sacrifice for that particular Mass.  The bow is appropriate to no other clerics in procession except the Rector or a bishop, for either of whom the bow is a sign of respect.
  • Whenever the Name of Jesus is spoken or sung except when kneeling (as during the Prayer of Consecration); kneeling subsumes a bow.
  • In the Gloria in Excelsis:
    • At “adoramus Te/We worship Thee”.
    • At “suscipe deprecati/receive our prayer”.
  • At the Gloria Patri at the end of the Psalm.
  • When the Gospel Book passes in procession.
  • At the exclamations of praise before and after the Gospel.
  • At “is worshipped and glorified” in the Creed.
  • Whenever receiving vessels or other impedimenta from the MC or other servers.
  • AA only: after the lavabo (mirroring the Celebrant).
  • At Trinitarian doxologies in hymns and/or Canticles.

Servers holding candles do not bow.

Bow the upper body (shoulders) to acknowledge a ceremonial act, such as the censing by orders.

Bow profoundly (from the waist) for the first two phrases of the Sanctus. NOTE: the Sacred Ministers cue this bow and do not always rise at the same phrase. Servers should mirror them.

The Sign of the Cross

When making the sign of the cross, begin with the joined-hands position. Then place the left hand, extended, with the fingers and thumb held close together, on your chest, just below the breast. Make the sign of the cross with the right hand. Without bowing your head, touch your forehead with the tips of your three longest fingers fully extended and held close together, then, in sequence, touch the center of your chest (above your left hand), your left shoulder, and then your right shoulder. Immediately resume the joined-hands position without touching the center of the chest again or kissing the thumb or an imaginary rosary. Save that for Mother Angelica.

In general, it is our custom to cross ourselves in the following places in the liturgy:

THE PREPARATION In the name of the Father …
Our help is in the name of the Lord …
May Almighty God have mercy upon us …
But deliver us from evil … (in the Lord’s Prayer)
OPENING ACCLAMATION Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
GLORIA IN EXCELSIS … in the glory of God the Father/in Gloria Dei Patris.
HOMILY INTRODUCTION/ CONCLUSION … in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
CREED .. and the life of the world to come
THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Biddings:) Rest eternal grant unto them …
for all thy servants departed this life …
ABSOLUTION have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you …
EUCHARISTIC PRAYER (at the elevations of the elements)
… be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction ..
THE LORD’S PRAYER But deliver us from evil …
THE COMMUNION Behold the Lamb of God …
(at reception of Communion)
THE BLESSING … the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit …
THE ANGELUS The angel of the Lord …
… so by thy Cross and Passion …

Servers with anything in their hands during any of these times do not cross themselves.

A Final Word

While the foregoing may seem excessively fussy, particularly in an age when manners are out of fashion and seminaries are apparently intent on turning the Mass into a rock-‘n’-roll show, remember that Divine Service is not a casual activity. The Lord’s Supper is a heavenly banquet, not a drive-thru lunch from a fast food shop. Lack of attention to deportment at Mass is as inappropriate as wearing torn jeans to a formal dinner. Sloppiness of appearance, movement or behavior will not show forth “the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty,” which is what we seek to present.

 1 Some of our vertically-challenged servers may wish to cross their ankles.

2 The only time a genuflection is made on the left knee is in the presence of a bishop.

Acolyte Guild Mission Statement

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.

General Policies
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.

Service Positions
The service positions ascend in degree of difficulty and are generally as follows:
1. Torch
2. Crucifer
3. Acolyte
4. Thurifer
5. Chalice Minister
6. Subdeacon/Master of Ceremonies

Criteria for promotion include, but are not limited to:

• Competent performance of assigned duties
• Punctuality
• 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

Liturgical Customary of the Church of the Advent, Boston


The people of the Church of the Advent have always been united by our common faith in Jesus Christ and by the splendor of the liturgy and music that accompanies the celebration of His presence among us in the Eucharist. The parish was founded in 1844 by people whom God inspired to worship in the catholic tradition of the Episcopal Church. Since that time, the Advent has been a witness to the Church at large by demonstrating that devotion in action is evangelical and lived faith brings grace to those in need. Many thousands of people have worshipped at the Church of the Advent, and remark on the sense of reverence and devotion that they feel here. The people of the Advent are in touch with their roots historically, from the apostolic period through the primitive church, from the Medieval period through the Reformation, and of course through the Oxford Movement of the 19th century. But we are aware of the present as well. We acknowledge that liturgy evolves. We take full advantage of the liturgical scholarship that brought about the Second Vatican Council and revision of the Book of Common Prayer. We are not a museum and do not merely recreate the past. We are a community of the Body of Christ and we seek to bring our best always to God in the liturgy. We work hard together to make our worship a faithful expression of who we are and share that with others. It has been a long journey and will continue until Our Lord brings us into the fullness of His everlasting kingdom. Our call to pray together week after week has sustained us through many long years of hardship because we, as catholic Christians, know that our first duty lies in giving praise and thanks to God and returning each week to receive His presence in the Eucharist.

These notes are the latest in a series of customaries that have been in use at the Advent for many years. They are meant to describe the liturgy as it is currently celebrated in this place at this time. They give direction to the clergy and masters of ceremonies who conduct the rites. They allow new clergy and servers to learn how to take their place in the worship of the church. They provide specific information to the Altar Guild, Acolyte Guild, Flower-Arranging Guild, sextons, musicians, and office staff. They make it possible for all involved in executing the liturgy to perform their specific functions and still worship God. When we all know what is expected of us, we can focus on being the Body of Christ and not a theatre company. If those at the altar go about their duties with a sense of grace, the congregation will not be distracted either by awkwardness or a sense of military precision. For the congregation has work to do as well. They are not the audience; they are performers also. God is the object of our efforts, the focus of all our attention. We, of course, enjoy the glorious music and beautiful flowers and vestments. The mystery of the Incarnation means that we live in a material world and thankfully enjoy the things that God has given us. But we know that even without the splendor, we would continue to give our best in praise and thanksgiving, singing with joy to Our Lord and breaking bread and asking His help and forgiveness. “For he is the Lord our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and show ourselves glad in him with psalms.”

Many people have offered themselves through the liturgy of the Church of the Advent, but three in particular are the inspiration for this edition of the Customary: Fr. Andrew C. Mead, 14th rector of this parish, whose palpable sense of devotion helped us all take God seriously and not ourselves; Nancy C. Nickolds, retired warden of the Acolyte Guild, who first encouraged the comprehensive codification of these notes; and Fr. John Clarke, former sacristan at the church, who always desired to make the liturgy reverent and yet fun, and is the original author of many of the notes in this volume. May God continue to bless our ministry and may we always serve Him faithfully as He commands us.

William J. Theisen
Julianne E. Turé
September 8, 1999
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee, mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the same Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.

Copyright notice: “This document is property of the Parish of the Advent, Boston, MA. Permission is granted to reproduce this material provided that the authors are acknowledged and a copy of the reproduction is supplied to the Parish of the Advent.”

© Julianne E. Turé and William J. Theisen 1999

9am Torchbearer


  • TT carry torches for the entering Procession, the Offertory procession, and the Recessional.
  • When holding torches TT stand outside the altar rail, at the opening between the two innermost medallions:
  • Candles remain lighted throughout the Mass, whether being held or in rack in Smoke Sacristy
  • TT raise and lower torches three times during the Canon of the Mass, following the movement of the Celebrant’s arms as first the host is elevated, then the wine, and finally both.
  • When not bearing torches TT stand, sit or kneel near the Bishop’s throne.


Pairs should hold their candles at the same level. If there is a height disparity between partners, the taller partner should accommodate the shorter by carrying his/her candle lower. Hold the candle far enough in front of you so that your knees do not knock into it as you walk.

When carrying a candle, the outside arm is down if you can manage it, but don’t fret over this detail.

TT chairs are on either side of Bishop’s Throne. Do not place anything on the Throne. Hymnals, programs, etc. are to be placed on TT chairs when not in use.

TT face across chancel at all times except during the Gospel Procession and Reading, when they face the Book.

How to genuflect: Put the right knee down and keep your back vertical. (It helps to hold your head straight and gaze at the crucifix on the reredos.)


TT enter with candles and follow CM & choir clergy in procession, preceding the MC. Until the altar rail is reached, TT are facing the altar. They then turn away from each other and move to stand between the two innermost medallions, then again face the altar.

After D ascends altar steps, places Gospel Book, and returns to his/her place, MC cues ALL to genuflect. While SMs ascend altar steps to footpace, TT turn and take torches to Smoke Sacristy and place them in the rack, leaving the candles lighted. They re-enter immediately and stand in front of their chairs on either side of the Bishop’s throne. (Whoever enters first goes to the further chair.)


TT follow MC and AA opposite in that they:

  • stand for opening salutation, Collect for Purity, Gloria, and Collect of the day;
  • sit for OT, psalm, and NT lessons.

For Gospel: TT stand when MC & Acol do, but remain in place, just turning to face Gospel Book as it is carried out to the congregation and read.

When MC, AA, and D return from Gospel procession and sit for the sermon, TT do likewise, but wait until clergy sit.

For the Nicene Creed, Intercessions, and Confession TT stand and move forward next to bottom step, mirroring MC and AA opposite, i.e. standing when they stand and kneeling when they kneel.

During the Creed there is a genuflection at the mention of the Incarnation. The right knee touches the floor, not the step. At the Confession kneel with the SM, not before them.OFFERTORY

After the Peace, TT exit directly to Smoke Sacristy without genuflecting and pick up lighted torches. At MC’s cue, Th leads TT from sacristy to center of rail. Th moves above rail; TT remain below rail at the same place as for the opening procession, and genuflect with the Th. Th goes to CEL. TT remain in their places.

Th has incense laid on and blessed and returns to center. TT again genuflect with Th, then turn and follow him/her through chancel, left on nave floor and down Epistle-side (South) aisle. Th and TT proceed to West door of the church where the Offertory Procession forms.

TT follow Th in procession, keeping 2-3 pew lengths behind, with candles at matching heights.

When TT reach rail, they go to same places as at opening lineup. After the SMs have received the gifts from the Processors and turn to go up to the Altar, all will genuflect together, watching out of the corner of your eyes so as to keep in sync with others.


TT remain standing in their places, holding candles in front of them at the same height as during the opening procession. After the Sanctus and Benedictus the MC will cue all to kneel, and candles are lowered. Hands are holding the torch against the railing. During the consecration, there are three times when TT should raise torches about a foot, then lower them. This movement should occur in sync with the Cel as he raises and lowers his arms: first with the host; second with the chalice of wine; and finally when both elements are raised together at the end of the Canon. (TT never cross themselves while holding a torch.)

TT remain kneeling until after the Prayer of Humble Access. As the Agnus Dei begins, MC cues ALL to rise. TT wait in their places below rail for Th, who proceeds to center. MC cues genuflection then Th and TT exit to Smoke Sacristy, with Th leading the way and TT following, holding candles at original height.

The torches are placed in the rack, without extinguishing candles, and TT re-enter. (Th empties thurible bowl, then enters to receive HC before doing cleanup.)


During Communion, TT remain standing and face the Acolytes. The Cel will come to you with the host, and the Deacon or SD will come to you with the chalice. Do not look at Communicants but gaze straight ahead toward Acol. The Acol generally do the counting at the 9 AM Mass, but in the event you are asked to count, focus on communicants’ folded hands, or back of Cel. to avoid looking at faces.

Blessings are not counted. Count is given to MC at the end of the Mass. If uncertain as to whether to count or not, go ahead and count anyway, as it is better to have duplicate counts than none at all!


TT kneel together on bottom step in front of Bishop’s Throne for Post communion Prayer, Blessing, and Dismissal. (Th will generally be there too.)


MC cues ALL to rise. TT go immediately the Smoke sacristy to retrieve lighted torches from rack, re-enter, and regular positions in front of the altar rail.


As hymn playthrough concludes, MC cues ALL to genuflect, then while all turn around to face the congregation, the TT turn and face each other.

As the CM & Choir Clergy are leaving their stalls in choir, MC cues TT to meet and move together, following Choir Clergy, as they did during Procession, and proceed to the Baptistry for final prayer.

After the final prayer, candles are extinguished and TT exit, pausing together for Genuflection at the Center Aisle, a Reverence (slight bow) at the side aisle (altar), then continuing out the North Door to the Smoke Sacristy.

After TT return torches to rack and remove their cottas, they assist the MC with the removal of vessels and books from the sanctuary.


9am Crucifer

Note: If the Crucifer is licensed to serve the Chalice, the Crucifer can also serve as CM. In such a case, the Thurifer can be asked to do the count at All Saints’ Altar.


• The Cr generally has an Acolyte on each side during a procession. However when moving down the narrow side aisles the Cr goes after the Acolytes. (Before electricity was used the candles lit the way.)

• The Cr keeps at least two, preferably three pews behind the Thurifer. The Acolytes should match the Cr’s pace, neither leading nor lingering, so that the three of them remain in a straight line.

• At the top of the Chancel Steps (the three steps leading up to the choir) the Cr makes a slight pause allowing the Acolytes to continue forward, while s/he turns left into the Cr’s Stall.

• The Cross is attached to the choir screen using the ring to hold the bottom of the pole and the hook to catch the pole further up. If the cross in use has a Corpus (figure of Christ) on it, the figure faces the Congregation. The hook should always be checked to be sure it is securely attached.

• All inside the Chancel – Clergy, servers & choir – genuflect together.


The Cr remains in the stall and stands, sits or kneels as if one of the Congregation.

• During the Gospel Processions the Cr stands and turns to face the Book, but otherwise the Cr faces straight across toward the stall of the Verger.

• Note: If there is a procession – festival or lenten – the Crucifer will take the Cel’s Cope to the Sacristy at the time of the Offertory Anthem. Cr meets the MC at the altar rail to receive the Cope as soon as the Thurifer & TT have left the chancel.

• At Communion Cr goes to the All Saints’ Altar to receive Communion, and count the number of persons receiving the Host. Blessings are not counted. Clergy and Servers are not included in this count; the MC adds them in later. When finished counting Cr returns to the stall.


• Following the dismissal, as the Sacred Ministers line up at the foot of the Altar, the Cr stands, removes the cross from its holder, and goes to the center of the Chancel to stand facing the Altar, where s/he is joined by the Acolytes.

• At a signal from the MC, all in the lineup genuflect and turn to face the Congregation. As they turn, Cr and Acolytes turn and lead the Recessional down the center aisle, turn left into the Baptistry and stand in front of the Font. The Cr sets a moderate and dignified pace which the Acolytes match.

• After a final prayer in the Baptistry, all servers exit along the back of the church. Cr returns the Crucifix to the closet, removes surplice, and helps in the removal of items from the Sanctuary. Communion vessels go to the Working Sacristy; Gospel Book, Altar Book, and Intercessions Notebook to the Vestment Sacristy; and Hymnals and Alms Basin to the Smoke Sacristy. (The Alms are put in the safe.) Cr also reports his/her count to the MC.