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An Historical Perspective

Written by Bruce Langille

When I joined a long time ago there was a server present for the weekday morning service, and you were lucky to be assigned two Sunday services in a month. The normal Sunday used sixteen servers at the four services. We also were first in having visually impaired servers and females join our ranks. The roles played by the present Sacristan and Verger were part of our normal duties. We also decorated the church for Thanksgiving (collected branches from the woods), Christmas and did a few other related duties. Actually three of our number later became Priests. We had our own construction, elected a President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary and Past President. There was an induction service in November for new servers and the newly elected executive. We raised funds for vestments by holding dances until we were shut down (an interesting set of stories) and we sold note cards. We also rented the King's gym and pool, went on sleigh rides and held a Christmas social. We had female dates join us for some of these events. There are lot of good memories and good friends.  

The St. Alban's Servers Guild had a set policy of a training period of six or more months after which, in November at Evening Song, the new members were inducted. As well at this service the new executive elected by the members of the guild in secret ballot were formally inducted. New members normally sat in their black cassocks in the first two rows of pews with the congregation. Inducted servers sat in the choir pews. As well, at that service servers who had completed two years of service were presented with the Two Years Crosses, a purple ribbon noted the years of service. This was common property of the guild and the crosses were hung in the Server's Vestry. After another three years of service, which many did not stay for, you received a Five Years Cross, which had a wide red ribbon and was the property of the server receiving it. This was not left in the Server's Vestry. It is interesting that the newer the ribbon color indicated a more junior senior server. As your years passed the ribbon faded with age and indicated a senior server. There was a difference in this group as junior senior servers of five years service respected the older senior servers of seven eight or nine years service. Most servers left before ten years although I remember a server when I joined having a chain and a cross and he was an older server. However, I stayed a little longer and at ten years to my surprise received a Ten Years Cross with a silver chain. I was the "old guy" in the group. I thought that a five year cross put you in a different position in the group, but a ten year cross put you in a very different position. You were ”apart” from the "five year group.” Your words and actions were watched. Perfection was expected all the time.

The visually impaired servers were from the School for the Blind located quite near the Cathedral at University Avenue, Tower Road and South Park Street. A fair number of young people from the school attended church at the Cathedral sitting in pews reserved for them under the pulpit. They had brail hymn and prayer books. In the late 1960's some in this group were interested in joining the St Alban's Servers Guild. I remember two boys from the school who joined our group. They were trained to do everything a server was supposed to do. We learned quickly that they were quite capable. I think we surprised a few visiting clergy that we had servers who had vision problems.  Everyone was really surprised when they carried lighted tapers in procession. However, to us they were one of our group and they did everything that we did. We all got along both on "the job" and socially. I still remember a few great times. Unfortunately, the original group left after a few years with us, but this was not uncommon among the boys/young men that joined the group. Some did not last to induction, some stayed for the first two years and some longer. It depended on dedication and conflicts with other activities. Unfortunately we were unable to recruit more boys from the school. However, we moved forward.

In the early 1970's there was interest in girls becoming servers. Times were changing and we were changing as a guild as well. However, the acceptance of girls in our group was not universal. I was a bit older and saw no problem with girls joining. We had to be a little more proper in our Servers’ Vestry and our social activities now included girls. However, I was surprised that a few younger boys approached me one Sunday morning on my way into church with their concerns about female servers. I did not support their views. Our attempt to be open to females caused a number of boys to leave the group. I think to this day that this attempt to welcome females was not handled in the right way by the guild executive or the clergy at the time. Times were changing and for myself I saw no threat, but we had younger boys who saw it as a boys’ group in a setting where there were few male groups to which to belong. However, the young girls who joined were up to the challenge. They were very capable and I think more dedicated than some of the boys. Girls or should I say young women made up a small percentage of the group, but as our numbers were smaller their presence was very important to our maintaining our ability to meet the requirements of the Cathedral. I wonder now how they look back on their time as members of St Alban's Servers Guild.

I certainly met some interesting people during my years of serving and I learned much about what went on behind the scenes. I still look back on those days long ago with fondness. This is one group I would like to see young people join. Let them have responsibility and run their own organization. They are the leaders of tomorrow.

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Worship at a Glance

Regular Sunday Service Schedule

8:00 am Holy Communion (BCP)
9:00 am Holy Eucharist (BAS)
10:30 am Choral Eucharist (BAS)
Special choral services and concerts are held on Sundays at 4 p.m. September through June. Please check our events page for details

Regular Weekday Service Schedule

Tue 12:15 pm HE (BCP)
Wed 7:30 am HE (BAS)
Thu 12:1 pm HE (BAS)
Fri 12:15 pm HE (BCP)

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