Altar Guild


Weekly Duties

Preparation before Services: 

(Reminder – Whenever you are handling the brass ware please wear a pair of white gloves which are found in the top long drawer of the large cabinet in the sacristy.)

  1. Remove plastic cover on altar, fold it and store in the sacristy. Be sure the prayers are left on the altar near the left candle stand.

  1. Iron Altar linens, if wrinkled. Ironing board is in the sacristy and iron is in the corner cupboard.

  1. Change paraments, if necessary. There is a church year calendar on the bulletin board in the sacristy which lists the appropriate color for each season. (The church secretary also writes the correct color for each day on the inside of the bulletin, which is on the counter.) The paraments are located in the long drawers of the white, built-in cabinet. Place the white plastic (cerecloth) on top of the altar parament, and then put the fair linen over that. Return the candles (6” from the edge of either side and centered from front to back) and missal stand to the appropriate places on the altar. Open the altar service book to the Words of Institution.

  1. Dust chancel wooden furnishings, including baptismal font and altar railing. A soft cloth and Endust are in the second drawer under the counter. Use a clean brass rag (no chemicals) and wipe the brass cross and 2 altar candles and candelabra. You do not need to polish any brass ware.

  1. Replace the eternal candle. New candles are in the lower cupboard near the far wall. Lower the light using the chain and remove the glass container inside the red globe holding on to it while wearing gloves – IT IS HOT! Put the new candle into the holder and light it by igniting a long match (first drawer of cupboard under counter) from the old candle and transferring it to the new candle. The Eternal flame should never die out. Throw old glass holder away.

  1. On the first and third Sundays of the month fill the candles on the altar. Take the candles into the sacristy (handling them wearing white gloves). Unscrew the top of the candles and fill them with the oil found to the left of the sink, lower cabinet. Put the oil in the fill bottle and then fill the candles from this bottle. Wipe the candle followers with a clean brass rag. Return candles to the altar. If you are asked to fill the candelabra candles, see instructions under Candles Tab.

  1. Put hymn numbers for the 9:30 services on the hymn boards. Hymns for the 9:30 service go on the left and right boards. Numbers are in a wood box on the lower shelf of the cupboard across from the counter. Be sure the 6’s and 9’s are in the correct locations.

  1. Fill one glass with water and place on the shelf in the pulpit. Cover the glass with a paper towel.

  1. Place flowers in vases and put on credence stands. Remove artificial flowers to sacristy. If flowers have arrived from the florist they will be in a stand in the narthex. If they are not in the narthex check the bulletin to see if anyone has given flowers for the service. Sometimes they will bring a plant or arrangement themselves, but this does not often happen. If no flowers are given on a Sunday leave the artificial arrangement on the credence stands. If an arrangement of flowers is to be put on the organ make sure that a plastic sheet is underneath the arrangement. Plastic sheets can be found in the bottom drawer of the cupboard under the counter.

  1. Check the bulletin for any additional announcements, such as a baptism. Refer to the sections of the Altar Guild Manual to prepare for these special events.

If an announcement of the birth of a new baby in our congregation is in the bulletin, please place a red silk rose in a glass vase and tie a white ribbon around the neck of the vase. A gold seal may be placed on the bottom of the vase. Place this on the right, front side of the altar, as you face the congregation. (These items are located in the large white cabinet where the communion ware and supplies are located.) Following the services, the flower with vase is given to the baby’s family.  If the family is not present, the Altar Guild chairperson will deliver the flower to the family.

Instructions when there is a wedding scheduled on Saturday.

Follow the preparations outlined above, but make the following adjustments:

  1. Leave the hymn numbers on the counter in the sacristy – do not put on the hymn boards.

  1. Leave altar flowers (or empty vases) in sacristy. Sometimes the wedding flowers will be left for the Sunday service.

  1. Prepare for communion, but leave all the elements on the counter in the sacristy.

  1. Make sure the candelabra and altar candles are filled with oil. See instructions on Filling the Candles page, Candles Tab.

The Wedding Hostess will put all of the above items where they need to be after the wedding.


Preparation for Communion

Items needed for Communion:

  • Square corporal linen
  • Chalice
  • Pall (Fabric covered square)
  • Paten (small brass plate)
  • Veil (to cover communion)
  • 4 Small White bowls
  • Purificator (Folded handkerchief)
  • 4 Small crystal glasses
  • 2 Large Wafers
  • Small Wafers
  • Wine
  • Grape Juice
  1. Press communion linens if needed. These are all found in the top drawer of the long cabinet in the sacristy. Place linens on altar per diagram on the next page. Cross on the linens faces congregation.

  1. Place 2 large wafers on the brass paten.

  1. Pour a small amount of wine in the chalice.

  1. Place paten on top of chalice (cross on chalice faces congregation) and then place pall on top of paten.

  1. Fill 4 small white bowls with the small wafers. Place those behind and on the sides of the chalice on the small corporal linen. Drape veil over the chalice and bowls.

  1. Fill two of the small glasses with wine (found in refrigerator or in tall cupboard to you left as you enter sacristy). Fill the other two glasses with white grape juice (also found in refrigerator or cupboard. Fill these glasses to the bottom of the etched design on each glass. Place these four glasses  to the left side of the altar. Place a plastic covering over these glasses.

  1. The third week of the month Julie Necina prepares the Eucharistic Minister Kits (wooden communion kit boxes found in the large cabinet in the sacristy.) You may simply need to put the kits away when they have been returned to the sacristy. However, in the event that you are asked to fill the kits use these instructions: Place 4 wafers and 4 cups in each kit and fill the bottle half full with grape juice. Close the kits and put them on the altar per diagram. These kits are used to deliver communion to our shut ins. The kits will appear back in the sacristy after use. If they need to be cleaned, please clean out the bottle (pour juice outside on the ground), throw the glasses away and return unused wafers to a baggie. Return the kits to the shelf for storage.

  1. Follow the diagram on the following page for placement of all of the communion items.

Altar Layout

Altar Layout
Duties After the Services:
  1. Remove flowers from vases and put in coffee cans which have been covered in foil. Fill the can half full with water. If the people who donated the flowers do not want to take them home, put the coffee cans on the coffee cart in the Narthex and Meals on Wheels will deliver them to their clients. Wipe the vases with a clean brass cloth. Place the vases in the cupboard inside the gold cloth covers.

  1. Remove hymn numbers and place back in box in cupboard of sacristy.

  1. Empty and dry water glasses. Place them back on the pulpit shelf, covered.

  1. Remove all bulletins, lessons, etc from altar area. Leave them on the counter in the sacristy for the church secretary. Do not throw them away.

  1. Remove all communion ware from the altar.

  1. Put the wine and grape juice that are left into a container to be poured on the ground outside. Do not pour the used wine/grape juice back into the bottles. Put opened wine bottles and grape juice bottles in the refrigerator.

  1. Put the wafers back inside a baggie and seal well. Put back in the cupboard to be used another time.

  1. Wash all communion ware items and dry well. Store in the large white cupboard in the bags marked for that purpose.

  1. If the communion linens are soiled, please take them home and wash according to the instructions in this manual. If they are clean, carefully roll them on the cardboard tubes in the top drawer of the white cabinet, marked for this purpose. Wash also all dishtowels, dish rags, brass wipe rags and dust rags.

  1. Close the altar service book, and then remove the missal stand and candles from the altar. If the fair linen is soiled, please remove it and launder it. Laundry directions are in this manual. There is another fair linen in the first long drawer of the big, white built-in cabinet which may be put on the altar while the other one is being cleaned. Put the clear plastic cover on the altar and return the altar candles and missal stand to the appropriate places on the altar.

  1. Put the artificial greens back on the credence stands.

  1. Check the sacristy and be sure that everything is properly cleaned and stored. Turn off the light and close the door.

  1. On the last Sunday of the month that you serve, please leave the church door keys in the top drawer of the cabinet where the Altar Guild manual is kept for the next month’s team to pick up.



Filling the Candelabra Candles

Using the wooden carrier which is located in the sacristy, remove the candles form the candelabra and set them in the carrier. Place the carrier on the countertop in the sacristy, or on the chair, whichever is easier for you to use.

Wearing disposable gloves, unscrew the brass follower and fill each candle with Kerry Oil up to ½” of the threads. Please be careful not to twist or pull the wick which goes down in the oil in the candle.

Gently tighten the brass follower and wipe each candle down with a damp towel to remove any oil which may have gotten on the outside of the candle or follower

Place the candles back in the candelabras. You do not need to twist the candles, but set them in the holders securely.


Altar and Paschal Candles

These candles are filled in the same manner as the candelabra candles. However, you do not need to take the candles out of the holders, just unscrew the follower and fill the candle. Wipe candles when done.


Advent Candles

These candles are filled once at the beginning of Advent. Candles are kept in the upper cupboard of the sacristy. Midway through Advent you may check the candles that were used the first two weeks to see if they need additional oil. After Christmas, simply pour the unused oil back into the Kerry oil bottles to be reused again. Then wipe out the inside of the candles as much as you can, being careful of the wick.

Candlelight Communion Candles

Altar Guild Chairperson, or designated person, will take care of cleaning the cup holders and filling with the candles. These are placed at the entrance on Christmas Eve.

Placement of Paschal Candle

The Paschal Candle is centered in front of the altar except during Lent and Advent when it is moved to the left side of the pulpit.



Special Days

Preparing for Evening Services
  1. Uncover the altar.

  1. Fill one glass with water and place (on coasters) in the pulpit. Cover it with a paper towel.

  1. Put hymn numbers on hymnal boards.

  1. For mid-week Lenten services, remove green artificial planters from the credence shelves and put in the sacristy.

  1. Check with Pastor for any additional needs.

Ash Wednesday – set up for communion. Put ashes (found in a small envelope in the upper sacristy cupboard) in the small, metal cup. Place this cup along with a small towel (baptismal napkin-size, dampened with water and a small amount of liquid detergent) on a small plate. Place this on the altar between the missal stand and the chalice.

Maundy Thursday – set up for communion. At the end of the service everything on the altar is removed in preparation for Good Friday. Altar Guild Chairperson, or designated person, will handle cleaning and ironing of the drapes to be used for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Good Friday – The altar is bare and the cross and any other shiny objects (candelabra and processional cross) are draped with black cloths. Altar Guild Chairperson will check with Pastor to see what other arrangements he wishes to have handled.


Procedure for Stripping the Altar on Maundy Thursday

Four people (working in two teams) are needed to remove the altar furnishings from the chancel to the sacristy. There will be a rehearsal with all the participants before Maundy Thursday. Each person must wear white gloves (these are in the top drawer of the sacristy). The items will be removed as follows:

Team #1 –  removes missal  &  missal stand

Team #2 –  removes veil  & pall

Team #1 –  removes chalice &  paten

Team #2 –  removes small corporal and 2 wafer cups

Team #1 -  each removes 2 communion glasses

Team #2–  each removes one of the altar candles

Team #1 – removes plastic covering

Team #2 – old each end of the fair linen to the center and bothremove to sacristy         

Team #1 – C & D fold each end of cerecloth to the center and both remove to sacristy.

Team #2 – A & B fold altar parament and remove this to the sacristy.


Preparing for Palm Sunday
  1. Take care of regular altar duties.

  1. Altar Guild Chairperson or office staff will let you know if any additional arrangements need to be handled.


Preparing for Easter
  1. Take care of regular altar duties.

  1. The small individual candleholders are used for the sunrise service. Altar Guild Chairperson, or designated person, will take care of preparing these.

  1. For the sunrise service, the baptismal font is placed in the center front aisle (where it is normally placed for a baptism). The cover is removed and the bowl is filled ¾ full with water. The baptismal font is moved back to its usual location after the sunrise service.

  1. Altar Guild Chairperson or office staff will let you know if any additional arrangements need to be handled.


Preparing for Thanksgiving
  1. Uncover the altar.

  1. Fill one glass with water and place (on coasters) in the pulpit. Cover it with a paper towel.

  1. Put hymn numbers on hymnal boards.

  1. Prepare for communion.


Preparing for Advent
  1. Take care of regular altar duties.

  1. The Paschal Candle is moved from the center of the altar to the left side of the pulpit, to make room for the Advent wreath.

  1. You should not have to put the Advent wreath up, but be sure the Advent candles are taken down from the sacristy cupboard and filled with oil.

  1. Altar Guild Chairperson or office staff will let you know if any additional arrangements need to be handled.

Preparing for Christmas Eve
  1. Take care of regular altar duties.

  1. The Paschal Candle is moved from the center of the altar to the left side of the pulpit, to make room for the Advent wreath.

  1. You should not have to put the Advent wreath up, but be sure the Advent candles are taken down from the sacristy cupboard and filled with oil.

  1. Altar Guild Chairperson or office staff will let you know if any additional arrangements need to be handled.


Special Events

Preparing for a Baptism

Items needed


Baptismal Napkin
Paschal Candle
Candle, with Box
Handkerchief for Pastor
Metal Cup with Olive Oil


  1. Place baptismal font in the center-front (center aisle between the front pew and communion railing). Remove the top and set aside. Place Paschal candle in front of the font.

  2. Just before the service place a small amount of very warm, almost hot, water in the basin of the font and fill the ewer (silver pitcher) approximately 1/3 full of the very warm water. Set the ewer on the front edge of the font.

  3. Cover the bottom of the small metal cup with a little olive oil. Place this on the right edge of the font.

  4. Place a baptismal napkin for the child on the right edge of the font. (These napkins are stored under the bowl in the font.) The handkerchief for Pastor is also placed on the right edge.

  5. Place the child’s candle on the left edge of the font. The candle box and baptismal certificate are placed on the altar railing, pulpit side.

Clean Up After Baptism
  1. Empty water from basin onto the ground outside. Thoroughly dry the basin and return it to the font. Dry off any water spills on the font and replace the top. Move the font to the right side of the chancel under the baptismal plaque.

  2. Return the Paschal candle to its location prior to the baptism. This would be in the center front directly in front of the altar, except during Advent when the Paschal candle will be on the left side of the pulpit.

  3. Be sure the ewer is emptied and thoroughly dried. Wash out the small metal cup and dry thoroughly. Store both items in the sacristy cabinet.

  4. The Pastor’s handkerchief may be stored, or taken home to be laundered, if needed.


Preparation for a Funeral

Day Before

  Preparing the Pall
  1. Get the Pall out of the bottom drawer of the lower cabinet in Sacristy. Spread a blanket on the floor in the back of the church (nearest the side driveway). An electrical outlet is under a pew way in the back near the closet.

  2. You may use the iron/steamer in the Sacristy closet.

  3. Lay the Pall on the top of the blanket and steam press. A pressing cloth for the center of the Pall is located in the 5th drawer of the lower Sacristy cabinet.

  4. Have someone help you lift the pall to drape over the back pews (left side of church). The back end drapes over the back pew and the front end drapes over the third pew from the back. Anchor the Pall down with a hymnal on each corner. The top of the cross is draped across the last pew. Feet always go first when a casket is moved to the altar. The upper part of the cross is at the “head” end of the casket.


Preparing the Altar
  1. Using white gloves (found in the second drawer of the counter in Sacristy) remove altar candles and missal stand.

  2. Uncover the altar by removing/folding the plastic cover. Drape the plastic over the stair rail in Sacristy.

  3. Be sure the Paschal candle is located directly in front of the altar.

  4. Make sure the candelabra candles are filled with oil.


Day of Funeral

Covering Casket with Pall
  1. Funeral Assistants will wheel the casket to the back of the center aisle. Both of you stand at front and back of Pall. Pastor will signal when to lift the Pall up. While holding the bottom, step sideways to position front or back of casket and together place the cross of the Pall on the center of the casket and bring the edges of the Pall down.

  2. Sit back down in the back.


Removing the Pall
  1. At the end of the service, the casket will be wheeled to the back of the center aisle again. Stand and take your places (back pew near casket or third row up near the casket).

  2. Pastor will signal when to begin. Each of you will start on the lower side of the Pall (nearest the side driveway) and take hold of the edge of the Pall below the casket while holding the top with the other hand. Together, bring it up to the center of the top of the casket. Reverse the process on the other side. Do not forget to hold the top with one hand so it doesn’t slip.

Next, each of you will reach down front and back to lift the lower edge, bringing it to the center on top of the casket.

One of you will fold the Pall one more time and carry it to the far side of the pew way back near the closet.

  1. If the Pall has been neatly folded it is ready to return to the bottom drawer of the Sacristy cabinet. Otherwise you can refold it on the tabletop in the upper room.


Finishing the Altar
  1. Put white gloves on and remove the altar candles and missal stand.

  2. Get the plastic cover from the Sacristy rail and cover the altar.

  3. Replace the altar candles and missal stand.


Cleaning Instructions


Remove all stains and wax before washing. Wine stains can be removed by running cold water over the linen. Do this as soon as possible, before the stain sets. Wax can be removed by placing the spot between paper towels and ironing over the towels. Repeat the process until the wax is melted. The greasy spot can be removed by rubbing a small amount of D & L Hand Cleaner (located in the tall, narrow cabinet) or PineSol, into it and then rinse the area thoroughly. Wash the linens by hand with a mild detergent, rinse thoroughly and roll in a towel to absorb the excess moisture. The fair linen may be laundered in your washing machine on the gentle cycle, as this is too large to hand wash easily. NEVER BLEACH OR STARCH THE LINEN!


Ironing Linens

To remove wrinkles, press the linens with a steam iron or damp cloth. If linens have been washed, it is easier to iron them at church. Be sure the linens are quite damp (cold refrigerated linen irons more easily). Set the ironing board up at the end of the altar (never iron across the altar) so that you can pull the linen across the altar as you iron it. Begin by ironing the back side of the linen first and then the front side. If you have questions about this call the Altar Guild Chairperson.


Using silver polish, clean the Ewer using a clean soft cloth and then rubbing dry with another clean cloth. The Ewer should be cleaned before each baptism.

Offering Plates

The offering plates need to be polished once a month. Lay a cloth on the countertop and turn the plates over so they are upside down. Do one at a time. Pour a small amount of Porter’s Friend on the plate and rub well with a soft cloth. Take a second clean clothe to wipe the Porter’s Friend off until it is clean and shiny. Then turn the plate over and do the same on the inside, being careful not to get Porter’s Friend on the plate liners.


Brass Candelabras

Clean every three months. Remove the candles and place in the wooden candle holder found in the Sacristy cupboard near the sink. Pour a little Porter’s Friend on a soft cloth and wipe the entire candelabra, a small area at a time. Start at the bottom and work your way up. When finished with an area take a second cloth and wipe dry before moving on to another section.


Candle Followers

Do not polish the candle followers. You might take a cloth with a little liquid soap and carefully wipe the followers off. Be careful not to touch the wick.


Missal Stand

Clean every three months. Clean in the same manner used for the offering plates.

Eternal Candle Holder

Carefully remove the glass liner and polish the brass plate, round circle and chain (the chain does not get real clean). Replace glass liner.

Brass on Side Door to Sanctuary

The door handle and kick plate need to be polished every month for this door only.