The joy of altar serving

The Altar Boy (Picasso 1896)

How as an eight year old boy  was I to carry a heavy book on a metal stand from one side of the altar to the other without dropping it?

This was my anxiety was about serving Mass for the first time – doing so with self-conscious timidity and wanting to appear “holy” in front of folk.

Surprisingly, my father, (who usually seemed oblivious and dismissive of my concerns), sensed my unease and talked about his time as a server in the same church some 25 years earlier.  He assured me that all would be well – and gave me an important piece of advice “Whatever you do, do it as if you mean to do it!”

This exchange led to us sharing our thoughts and impressions about serving and its profound effect on both of us.  It wasn’t the robes, or even the role which mattered.  It was sharing the intimacy of the celebrant’s devotion and reverence – something hidden from the congregation in those days, when the priest celebrated Mass with back to the people.

It was important to know where we were in the Mass in order to ring the bell in the right place, to be able to anticipate the next action, and to be unobtrusive.  There was a need for manual dexterity – things could only be passed to the celebrant by the right hand, so when each hand held something a bit of a juggling act had to take place. But, or rather, AND we both knew that it was something that he had, and I now, enjoyed.  Serving God and the people by assisting the priest at Mass.

Joy in serving! After Epiphany Mass 2019

Servers today no longer have to learn old fashioned procedures, and that is good.  Nevertheless as we come to the altar we do so with that same devotion and reverence.  Whoever we are, women or men, boys or girls we can serve at the altar. Servers have the enormous privilege of sharing in the leadership and servanthood of ministry.  We all tread on holy ground, and servers share in that joy of service and prayer.

Fr Chris

Our Guild of St Phoebe at St C’s encourages and supports our wonderful serving team.


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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