Our team of Altar Servers play an essential role in our life and mission. They are at the heart of our Sunday morning worship and the team play a number of different supporting roles. The Romsey Abbey Guild of Servers currently holds three training sessions each year (one in the Autumn, one in the Spring and one in the Summer). They also come together for a number of social events across the year, including a Candlemass Curry and Summer BBQ. Individual training sessions can also be arranged on an ad-hoc basis for all new servers, and for servers wishing to learn a new role.
Altar servers, play an essential role within the life and mission of Romsey Abbey. They are at the heart of our Sunday morning worship and the team play a number of different support roles. The Romsey Abbey Guild of Servers currently holds three training sessions each year (one in the Autumn, one in the Spring and one in the Summer) as well as coming together for a number of social events across the year, including a Summer BBQ. Individual training sessions can also be arranged on an ad hoc basis for all new servers, and for servers wishing to learn a new role.
Here’s an outline of all the different roles.
The Crucifer carries the processional cross in procession, and in many churches leads the team of servers who are on duty. When the Altar has not been pre-laid, they will also carry the vessels from the credence table to the Deacon. During the administration of communion at the High Altar, the Crucifer in the Abbey, has a vital role in standing guard of the step to the south side, to prevent people from falling down it. In the absence of an Almoner, they are also responsible for receiving the collection.
The title of this role comes from the Greek akalouthos meaning follower. In some traditions they are also referred to as Taperers. They carry the acolyte torches in procession and light the Gosple book when it is read and the Altar at the consecration of the elements at Communion, raising their candles at the words of institution, “do this in remembrance of me”. In Romsey Abbey, the acolytes, along with the Sub-Deacon, lead the procession of elements from the back of the Abbey to the Altar during the Offertory hymn. In church had they, in association with the crucifer are often referred to as OXO or Cross and Lights. It is frequently the job of the Acolytes to light the church candles prior to a service. Many people begin their ministry of serving as either a boat boy/girl or as an Acolyte.
Master of Ceremonies (MC)
The role of the MC varies from church to church. In places where the Gospel is processed, but there is no Sub-Deacon, then they will process ahead of the Gospeller and hold the book for them whilst the Gospel is proclaimed. In some churches, the MC will hold the book for the President, whilst away from the Altar, and when at the altar may have a role helping the President keep their place whilst saying or singing the Eucharistic Prayer. Here in Romsey Abbey, the MC is responsible for assisting with the Lavabo (ceremonial washing of the Celebrant’s hands) and overseeing the distribution of Communion within the Sanctuary, particularly ensuring that chalices are not running low.
The Thurifer is responsible for the thurible, within which charcoal and incense is burnt. This role is not restricted to the Eucharist, with Thurifers also being present at Solemn Evensong and solemn Benediction. When present, Thurifers, will often precede the Crucifer in procession into the service and the Acolytes in the Gospel procession. At the Eucharist hey will present the thurible to the President to cense the altar during the Gloria and the gifts at the end of the Offetory and to the Deacon to cense the Gospel book, prior to it’s being proclaimed. Additionally, they will also cense the altar party and people during the offertory hymn, and the elements at the elevations during the Eucharistic Prayer. The burning of incense as part of worship goes back to Old Testament times and the rising smoke is symbolic of prayers rising to God.
It is important that the thurible is thoroughly cleaned between uses, so as to prevent a build-up of soot, and the production of an acrid soot heavy smoke. It is also important that the charcoals themselves, are very hot when the incense is sprinkled over them, as otherwise the grains have a tendency to melt rather than burn. In order to get a good smoke, it is important to allow air to circulate within the thurible whilst it burns. There are a number of different incenses available to churches, all of which have different aromas, some being more pungent than others, and some producing more smoke than others. Accordingly, some thurifers, prefer to make their own blend, by mixing several different types together. At present our main incense is Rosa Mystica.
The role of the Boat boy/girl is to carry the incense boat to offer to the President when they charge the Thurible. Although this role is commonly associated with children, it is one which can be performed by anyone. Given that they tend to follow the Thurifer around, it would be a good role for anyone who wanted to learn how to be a Thurifer.
The Almoner’s main function is to collect the alms of the people at the offertory. At larger Eucharists their role would expand to help oversee communion at stations outside of the Sanctuary.
Roles at other Services
Server at Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion
The server at BCP Holy Communion, in common with the server on weekday mornings has a wide range of responsibilities. They ensure that the chapel is set and candles lit; lead the Priest in at the beginning and out at the end; they take the collection; hand the vessels to the Priest and serve the elements; rings the bell following the words of institution; administer the chalice and assist with the ablutions after communion.
Server at Eucharist before the Parish Tea Party and Server at Morning Service (Monday-Saturday)
The server at the Eucharist Prior to the Parish Tea and the Server at Morning Service perform an almost identical job. They set-up and tidy-up the chapel; light and extinguish the candles, lead the Celebrant to and from the chapel (if robed). They hand the elements to the Celebrant at the Offertory and serve the elements; ring the bell before the service and at the elevations; administer the chalice and assist with the ablutions. Again this would be a good starting point for anyone interested in serving, who would like to start out at a smaller, more intimate service and or anyone who is not sure about getting “dressed up”.
Crucifer at Evensong
The main role of Crucifer at Choral Evensong is to lead the choir in procession in and out. Additionally, they have responsibility for lighting the candles and assisting the Verger to tidy-away afterwards. They also receive the collection, presenting it to the vicar for blessing.
Get in touch
If you’re interested in joining the servers and taking part in this crucial, rewarding and highly enjoyable ministry, or you would like more information about it, please contact the Verger, Neil Howe.