The Cathedral of St. Philip - Atlanta, GA

Why I Love Serving on the Altar Guild

by Mary Caroline Cravens

Nearly 10 years ago, at the end of a 12:15 Eucharist, Mary Mercer asked me whether I might like to join the Altar Guild. I had no experience beyond acolyting (as a teenager) and observing consecration of the elements each week in church. I didn’t feel qualified at all – I thought the specialized terminology and precise protocol might be intimidating! But Mary said that she would train me and that she needed someone to serve just once a month. I never imagined how glad I would be to have said "Yes!"

I served once or twice a month for weekday services in St. Mary’s for several years. It quickly became one of my favorite times – entering the dim and quiet chapel, turning on the lights, tidying books, and straightening chairs, opening the sacristy, laying out linens, silver vessels, and elements on the credence table, marking the missal and the readings for the service and finally lighting the candles on the altar. After the service, clearing the table, carefully washing everything and putting it away, was equally solitary and lovely. I was eager to substitute anytime someone had to miss! I love the beauty of our liturgies and serving on the Altar Guild allowed me to help create that beauty.

Before long I also began to serve for larger special services – particularly family services during Lent. Later, Mary asked me to take charge of the roster for St. Mary’s, introducing me to the rest of the members serving in that chapel. I also began to serve once a month for the 8:45 Sunday service, where I worked with an excellent partner, who then became a good friend. Ultimately, it’s both a quiet contemplative ministry and a great way to meet other wonderful Cathedral members (we have around 60 women and men each serving for one or two services a month). Outside the pandemic, we have a couple of purely social events each year as well.

We would love for you to join us and are happy to teach you everything you need to know! We currently need volunteers for the 11:15 a.m. Sunday service and for 4:00 p.m. Evensong (and we will need help in St. Mary’s as soon as those services resume). Please contact Hillary Jones at to hear more or to volunteer.