As Compiled By Donna Furey
A Quote from First 75 Years of Saint James
“February, 1944, Pastor Bolle indicates an Altar Guild was being created, seeking membership of 24 ladies. Mrs. George Alexander was in charge of organizing and recruiting members. Its purpose was to keep the sanctuary and chancel spotless and appointments correct.”
In 1954, the Altar Guild was more formally organized to assist pastor and serve the congregation by caring for the sanctuary, baptismal font, linens and pastors’ vestments, and furnishing suitable paraments for the altar. The guild would also arrange for flowers to be delivered to shut-ins and hospitalized congregants and make plans for Christmas, Easter and all church festivities.
Little did I know that I had joined the Altar Guild shortly after it was formally organized. With much trepidation, I was instructed about how to do “church duty.”
Everyone greeted me with good humor and made me feel very welcome. I made many wonderful friends, many of whom have daughters that are now filling the Altar Guild role.
As I look back on those days, I willingly accepted many assignments. My first assignment was securing new albs for the pastors. Pastor Bolle, up to that time, wore a black cassock and a white surplice.
Now, with our new pastor, Pastor Johnson, they needed a new look.
Shortly after that, new stoles were needed to go with the new style of albs. Eleanor Erickson beautifully designed them and we purchased them one by one. We took the designs to Loehmann’s Church Supplies to be stitched. Loehmann’s, at that time, still had ladies at sewing machines doing the piecework.
Now, with the new albs, came the need for laundering. Avis Vlaar graciously offered to do this.
After working a schedule of usual duties for a few years, I was appointed Directress and needed to know more about what was needed to maintain a smooth running organization.
Communion wine that was always delivered to the working sacristy by a member of our church suddenly stopped coming. I began picking it up myself but that was not the best idea, so I found a liquor store that would deliver.
The communion wafers were another story. It was my duty to pick up the wafers at a Lutheran book store on Payne Avenue. They soon went out of business and I began another search.
Loehmann’s was my first choice but they had no delivery service and soon moved the location of their business as well. Again, the search was on. I checked St. Patrick’s Guild and wonder of wonders, they delivered.
About the same time, we changed from washing and reusing glass communion cups to the disposable plastic ones we still use.
Our next problem was uneven burning of the altar beeswax candles. Faye Miller had seen an advertisement for oil filled tapers and after some experimenting, we decided that was the way to go.
As you can see, the Altar Guild is always looking for new and better ways to do things.
It was our duty to see to decorations for the church festivals and Sunday flowers. We tried several suppliers before deciding on Glassing Florist.
Thanksgiving presented another challenge. For years, Buell Floral had supplied the decorations for our altar. When they went out of business, it became our duty to take over what they did. I guess I must have volunteered as I had been doing window display as part of my business. Marge Minea and Carolyn Bohrer helped me. We gathered pumpkins and gourds from our members and proceeded to do the best we could. How many years has that been?
Christmas was next. The wreaths and greens were delivered but without bows. A group gathered at my home to make red velvet bows. That was the easy part. After Christmas, we removed the bows, filled the loops with tissue paper and hung them on hangers so they could be stored on the coat rack in the church basement. That was before we had our beautiful cupboards. Gladys Rosvold and I made the pew arrangements.
When Palm Sunday came, it was always difficult and expensive to find palms. Once again, the Altar Guild had a better idea. We would purchase our own. To the wholesale house we went and picked out what we have now.
Another interesting solution came about regarding the candelabra. Wedding parties had been renting them from their florists. We also wanted a candle-lit service for Christmas. I contacted a company that seemed to have something that satisfied both needs. A purchase was made. It was decided to charge $7.50 per candle to defray the cost. We also voted to pay our custodian $25.00 for putting them up and taking them down, which is quite a job.
When we were cleaning the pastors’ sacristy, we noticed that it needed some redecoration. Dorothy Christensen and I purchased some fabric and had the seat cushions recovered. After a number of years, the time came to refurbish them again. A group of us selected new fabric and Joy Raddatz found someone to do the sewing. I painted the picture frame and added some baskets to organize study items. I believe it will be okay for a few more years.
Making baptisms memorable for the parents was always a priority for the Altar Guild. In 1988, Ruth Nelson noticed baptismal banners in her daughter’s church and suggested we do the same thing at Saint James. We took a vote and it became a project. Ruth was in charge for 8 years and then Marlene Ehlert took over. This was another example of the Guild’s ingenuity.
As I stated earlier, Altar Guild members are always thinking of ways to improve our working conditions. I love to organize so I took it upon myself to ask John Raddatz to make compartments to keep the altar cloths and banners arranged. The next problem was the cardboard boxes that stored the unity candles and advent wreath. Again, John delivered the beautiful drawers we have now. He also made candle holders that would hold 20 candles. These were used for pre-lighting the new beeswax candles before using them in the candelabra the first time.
Reaching into the closet for the pulpit falls always seemed problematic. I asked Gene Achterberg if something could be done to pull the rods way out. Another project well-done by Gene.
I have rambled on, but I wanted new members to know how we evolved over 47 plus years to where we are today and to anticipate how things will continue to grow. Altar Guild members are always thinkers and doers.
Respectfully, Donna Furey