by Elizabeth de Rainville-Stone
This Sunday we are celebrating a Ministry Faire where, as volunteers, we highlight the areas for service at St. Mark’s. I am inviting you to share my passion for serving with the Chancel Guild teams. Hopefully you, your family, your friends will consider joining one of our Chancel Guild teams.
Most people are very familiar with the 23rd Psalm, a psalm reminding us that the Lord is our Shepherd. One phrase that stands out to me is “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”. The Old Testament Shepherd metaphor for God indicated His provision, protection, direction, blessing, and eternal care for His people. How does that apply to us today in reference to the Chancel Guild?
At every Eucharist service we are reminded that Jesus, at the Last Supper, sat at a table with His disciples. As they ate the Passover meal together Jesus shared with them about His upcoming sacrificial death. Then He took some simple bread and said, “This is my body broken for you.”
At the end of the meal He lifted up the cup of wine and said, “This is my blood shed for the remission of, the cancellation of, the power of, sin.” Can you imagine such a teaching? The broken body and the cup of our salvation!
What were the enemies that our Good Shepherd would conquer with His death and resurrection? Greed. Pride. Fear. Sin. Confusion. Doubt. Failure. Death. Unworthiness. Famine of spirit and soul, etc. Anything that one could think would separate us from His provision, protection, direction, blessing and eternal care for them, for us.
What Jesus asked of his disciples was that they would remember Him as they repeated this service of Communion, of Eucharist. Remembering Him was, and is, an invitation for us to lovingly embrace what His death and resurrection would mean for them, and for us, for all of eternity. To bring to our conscious remembrance the conquering of those enemies that try to separate us from His love. Not to do this by rote but by our loving awareness.
As we prepare the elements of Eucharist, the shining of the brass, the scripture readings, the candle trimming, the sacredness of the Chancel area, all are combined to remind us of the sanctity of Jesus laying His life down for us.
Caroline Conklin, writing about [these] privileges, said,
“Our tasks have worth because we provide what the clergy and the community need in order to celebrate Holy Eucharist. But they have worth for other reasons as well:
for the intrinsic value of the objects we handle;
for the sacred space where they are housed;
for the legacy of those who have performed these same duties over the years; for God’s people who have come to these altars, and countless other altars, throughout the centuries; for God’s people who will come in the future;
for what we, working as partners, bring to our job and for what we take away from it… we members of the Altar Guild are privileged because we experience regularly and uniquely the thinness of the veil between the sacred and the
– from Meditations for Altar Guild Members. Faithful Servant Series. Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, PA. Preface vi. 2000.[Italics and spacing mine]
Volunteering in the Chancel Guild is a sacred and a humbling joy, a celebration of remembering what Eucharist means. It is how we, as team members, prepare the Altar for you to join us as we celebrate who Jesus is in our lives. In this holy place we consciously experience what a thin veil separates us from our secular world and the holy, sacred world. We are not doing a ‘job’ because we have to. We ‘get to’ serve and are privileged to honour Him as we prepare the Chancel, the table, for you and for us. What a joy!
Would you like to join our teams to help those of us serve in the Chancel Guild? It is our turn to prepare the table, as we obediently remember Him, and His defeat over every enemy. Come talk with us.