Every Sunday morning at Saint John's, the Body of Christ moves into action for a full day of prayers, teaching, and sacraments. As Paul writes, "In Christ, we who are many are one body." Parishioners, clergy, and staff fill roles to make the buildings into sacred spaces and celebrate our common life. Our recent work of spiritual renewal reminds us that church is the people rather than the place, and should be actively moving, as a body moves. There are many gifts and many members, but one body. Below you'll find many of the ways the people of Saint John's move in the life of Christ each Sunday.

Early Morning Preparations

  1. Sextons Arrive: Two or three staff are first in the door at around 6:00am to open the church and Sunday School rooms, turn on the lights, and prepare coffee and refreshments for the choir and each of the Sunday classes (up to 4).
  2. Prayers for the Body of Christ: A small team of parishioners and clergy meet at 7:15am and pray at various stations around the worship space and church grounds before the first Eucharist of Sunday, for the intention of all who enter the church.
  3. Clergy, Acolytes, & Organist Prepare for 8am Service: Clergy, Acolytes, and the organist participating in the first Eucharist begin preparations and vesting (robing) at around 7:30am.
  4. Nursery Opens: Staff for the infant and toddler nursery open for families at 7:45am each Sunday and stay until noon.

First Eucharist and Mid-Morning Prep

  1. 8am Eucharist: The first service of the day begins at 8am with music and a smaller gathering, usually 25-50 people.
  2. Altar Guild Transition: After the 8am service concludes, the Altar Guild prepares the table for the next Eucharist. They set out the necessary vessels for bread and wine, clean and swap the cloths used with the wine, and change the altar hangings, if necessary for a special occasion.
  3. Sunday School begins: Many parishioners arrive at the start of Sunday School at 9:15am. Children are ushered to their wing over Parish Hall, Teens move up to the Youth Room in the Parish Life Center (PLC), and Adults find their way to the Bride's Room, Conference Room, or Library for their classes. Most of the setup for these classes, including chairs and teaching supplies, have been set aside on the previous Thursday or Friday by the sextons.
  4. Chancel Choir Warms Up: The choir room begins to sound at 9:30am as the choirmaster plays through the hymns of the day.

Principal Eucharist

  1. Ushers and Greeters Take Their Positions: The team assigned for the day (about 10 people) place the service bulletins at the church doors and entrances and set up to welcome the congregants and pass out bulletins.
  2. Acolytes & Clergy Robe: Over a dozen parishioners participate as robed acolytes, chalice bearers, and vergers during the 10:30am service. At 10:15am, they move to the vesting (robing) rooms next to the clergy and gather their "appointments" (crosses, torches, banners, and Gospel book). Then all members of the procession meet in the Parish Hall to organize and pray before the service.
  3. 10:30am Eucharist: The big event of Sunday starts at 10:30am with prelude music or the opening hymn, and the full host of choir, acolytes, and clergy process down the main aisle. 150-250 people participate in this service, depending on the time of year. 
  4. Children's Chapel: Just before the priest steps up into the pulpit to deliver the sermon, children robed as Jr. Acolytes take a small cross and banner down the center aisle and collect all the other children behind them. They move back up to the room over the Parish Hall for a special liturgy with music, teaching, and scripture led by the Children's Ministry Director, clergy, volunteer parents, the choirmaster, and another musician from the choir. They all return to the nave during the Peace.
  5. Prayers for Healing: During the sacramental celebration of Communion, one of the clergy moves into the Lady Chapel to pray with those who ask for healing, for themselves or others. They are anointed with holy oil in the sacrament of Unction and return to their seats.

Clean-Up & Close Down

  1. Altar Guild Returns: As communion concludes, the altar guild is gathered in the working sacristy, behind the organ. When the last person has been served the bread and wine, all the vessels and serving cloths are taken to the sacristy, where the cleaning begins immediately. Wine spots on the linen are treated, the chalices are washed and dried, and any remaining host (blessed bread) is stored for a later service. The offering collected by the ushers is dropped into the safe for counting during the week. Then the Holy Spirit Altar is prepared for the evening Eucharist. This work continues through the end of the service and beyond until it is complete.
  2. Flower Delivery Setup: When the organ postlude is complete, a taller parishioner helps take down the high altar flowers and puts them in the flower sacristy (next to the working sacristy, behind the organ). The larger arrangement is divided into many smaller vessels and organized for delivery to sick and homebound parishioners who could not attend services. Volunteers assigned to the week pick up their share of flowers and deliver them during the afternoon.
  3. Ushers Start Clean-Up: A few ushers (and sometimes little helpers) move through the pews and pick up the bulletins left behind. They are collected and placed in the recycling bin near the vesting rooms.
  4. Sextons Close Church & Clean-Up Classrooms: After the church service is over, the sextons begin to secure the building and re-lock all the exterior doors. As the parishioners leave, the sextons put away the chairs and remove the refreshments from the classrooms and pick up after the nursery and children's chapel. Then they lock down the church offices, classrooms, and parish hall. Finally, they place directional signs for the 5:30pm service in the walkways and leave around 1pm.

Evening Eucharist

  1. Evening Eucharist: One clergy and a chalice bearer return to the church in the early evening to robe and make final arrangements for the 5:30pm Eucharist. The side door for the Holy Spirit Chapel is opened and a smaller group of parishioners (usually 20-40) come in. This service is simpler and smaller than the others. There is no accompanying music, and we use the chapel, rather than the High Altar.
  2. Final Clean-Up: The clergy for the late service and sometimes a volunteer return the altar vessels to the working sacristy and the vestments (robes) to their places. Then the church is closed up again, and they all go home for the day.

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Saint John’s Episcopal Church
3245 Central Avenue | Memphis, Tennessee 38111
Phone (901) 323-8597 | Fax (901) 327-9032