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Behind the Scenes With the Altar Guild

Christ Church Cathedral’s Altar Guild, led by Anne Tordai, currently consists of 12 volunteers who take turns preparing the altar and sacraments for every worship service. The Eucharist is a sacred family feast that links Christians worldwide even though the details may differ. 

At CCC, we use three separate altar sets on a weekly basis (one for each Sunday service). A set consists of two cruets (one for wine, one for water), two host boxes (one for regular wafers, one for gluten-free wafers), a lavabo bowl and towel (for washing and drying the priest’s hands), a paten (plate), a chalice, a pall (a linen-covered piece of cardboard protecting the chalice from contamination), a purificator (a cloth for wiping the chalice and any spills), a veil (a cloth placed over any unconsumed consecrated bread and wine), a slotted spoon (for extracting any bits of bread or wafers from the chalice after dipping), and a corporal (a “holy placemat” that contains any crumbs/spills so they can be reverently disposed of). 

Cleaning all the vessels after each service also falls to the volunteers of the Altar Guild. Caring for the altar sets requires a host of supplies, denture tablets! If there are consecrated elements left over, those items are treated with the utmost reverence. Unconsumed wine is poured into a special basin called a piscina, and wafers are buried in the garden. A piscina is a covered sink, and the drain empties directly into the earth rather than a sewer. As Anne says, “We can’t ask Jesus to be with us in the bread and wine and then dump Him in the sewer or trash!”

If you’ve ever been in the sacristy, you may have noticed the aumbry on the wall without knowing what it is. The Altar Guild keeps the aumbry stocked with consecrated wine and wafers that are used for home communion visits or for emergencies.

Photo of the aumbry.

Other duties of the Altar Guild include:

  • Decorating the altar, the pulpit and the lectern based on the color for the liturgical season
  • Changing the holy water in the various fonts
  • Preparing the baptismal font when necessary
  • Watering altar flowers as needed

Anne Tordai, the chair of the Altar Guild, describes their service: 

Our efforts are a gift of love to God and the congregation. It’s similar to preparing for a very special party, a feast! Many of our serving vessels are lovingly inscribed with memorials to parishioners long passed. Sunday after Sunday, we use these items that were donated in someone’s memory and we have the honor to read their names and remember them. 

 Most of our volunteers enjoy the quiet of the sacristy, the simple and humble tasks of hosting the feast and taking part in traditions that have served this congregation for over 150 years. 

Volunteers generally serve one Sunday a month. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering, contact Anne Tordai at And the next time you receive communion at church, be sure to say a quiet prayer of thanks for the volunteers who make it so seamlessly sacred.

Altar Guild volunteers: Tina Ahlgren, Beatriz Alvarado, Veronica Godinez, Silvia Guzmán, Carl Michaelis, Leticia Medina (1 p.m. chair), Annessa Miller, Irma Petrosino, Alison Stevenson, Theresa Stinson, Anne Tordai (8 and 10 a.m. chair), y Donna Wanstrath.