A few weeks ago, it struck me as linguistically correct that the people—mostly women—who take care of the many tasks associated with worship logistics are in many congregations called the Altar Guild. Some of the characteristics of Medieval guilds might also fit the skilled, knowledgeable people who make sure that all worship-related matters are done well.
As I think more about it now, guild certainly describes the women who care for communion ware, communion elements (several varieties of bread and wine), vestments, paraments, banners, candles and the like. (In some congregations, this group might also be responsible for acolytes, supplies for home communion visitors, upkeep of pews, and altar flowers.) Like in Medieval times, this guild’s detailed work is intricate, carefully protected and passed from generation to generation. It’s also subject to fervent discussion and continuing improvement. Membership in this select group feels like a sacred trust—these women are dedicated to excellence—that affords them high respect from pastors and the congregation as a whole.
My musings didn’t stop there. “What if we thought of the entire congregation as a kind of guild?” A place where people of faith went about their chosen vocations—in the church and out in the world—with high attention to excellence. A place where guild members—all the people in a congregation—were protected, valued and trained in their Christ-following skills. Where their combined power was known and regarded highly in the wider community. Where being “a member of that Lutheran Church” was a mark of deserved honor. And where everyone was invited and welcomed to join this collection of capable, purposed church members.
I’m still thinking about guild-related ideas to see what else might be useful or motivating here. For example, could congregations form other guilds? Maybe a writers’ guild…?
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