New Guide for Altar Servers

Available here is a free download of a guide for altar servers at the Divine Liturgy in the Slav-Byzantine Rite.

It started life as a guide for servers at my parish, particularly now that, for the frst time since we moved into our church and found ourselves with the space and resources to perform the services more fully, we seem to have a modest but slowly growing number of servers. I was encouraged by a friend to produce something for more general guidance, that could be used in any parish. This seemed like a worthy project with potentially useful results, and I was flattered to be thought capable of such a venture, so I began to amend it accordingly.

However, after some efforts in that direction, it began to become apparent that, not only would the inclusion of all the myriad of possible variations be incredibly time-consuming and turn the guide into a study book for use at home rather than the handy, practical guide that it was intended to be, which could be quickly glanced at during the course of a Liturgy, but also such a venture would be beyond my knowledge and capabilities. Also, it meant that some of the directions that would be needful for my parish's servers due to the peculiarities of our building and circumstances would have to be omitted, thus reducing its usefulness to the very people for whom it was intended in the first place.

In the end, a little saddened that I could not go ahead with the bigger project, I decided to revert to the original plan. The result is a guide for the servers at my parish, based on what I understand to be standard Russian Orthodox custom but adapted to our local use. Please feel free to take as much or as little from it as you find helpful, even if that means none at all.

4 responses:

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Thank you so much.
I found the booklet most enlightening and have safely downloaded a copy for reference.

Although I will never use it myself, LOL, I am keeping it safe in case I am blessed with grandsons :-)

ex_fide said...

Michael, I hope your Bishop knows what he has in you.

I'm preparing a Customary for my Parish which should help the servers. I'm also writing an Order for Holy Week. These things are very useful and reflect the rubrics of the worship of the Church faithfully applied to real life localities.

Michael said...

Safely downloaded, Elizabeth? I wonder what you thought the inherent dangers of downloading it might have been. :-p

I'm glad you found it useful. I think it's important for the worshipping people to know what goes on where and why, even if they aren't serving within the altar. It gives them a better sense of the entirety of the Liturgy and where they fit into it.

There's also a practical benefit to this. If the people in the nave know what the people who are usually in the sanctuary are going to be doing, they can act in concert with it. So when the deacon performs a great censing, knowing that he has to walk around the walls of the church, censing, they should know to step aside so he can pass by (which, in many places, they do not). If the people who decorate the church with flowers know that pairs of priests with wide, flowing vestments are going to be walking past a particular place, they know not to load the path with vases of flowers, (I have seen a cathedral Liturgy disrupted by frantic mopping because of the obvious results of well-intentioned people not paying heed to this).

Thank you, ex_fide. I'm sure my bishop does know whsat he has in me: a constant cause of headache.

I hope your efforts pay off. These things are important and my servers have been grateful for it. Once they fully get the hang of the Liturgy, most of the practical details and common-sense things transfer easily to Vespers and such like.

The one thing that grates on me most is when servers not reverence the High Place. It is what centres me, and reminds me throughout the Liturgy of why we are doing what we are doing: the practical duties come to a pause while we go to the easternmost part of the altar, and show our reverence to God on his throne. My servers are very good at remembering this, which perhaps makes them somewhat exceptional.

Anonymous said...

An excellent handbook--well done. I have just transferred to the OCA, now that I have a job and a new city, so I am sure it will be very helpful, given I am coming from about a decade of serving in the GOAA as a kid. Thank you for your dedication to this particular ministry.


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