In which Ruth ponders the saints of Christ Church Falkirk

W is an altar server at Christ Church. He’s been a server for about 60 years and is the most reliable of souls. In fact, it was only when he developed a heart condition a few months ago that he was unable to carry on serving. But after a few weeks at home and then in the pews he was back again waving a thurible about and pottering around the altar looking after things, albeit with a bit of a shake. W used to be an electrician and was a great handyman around the church and rectory for many years, fitting lights and showers and ovens and such like. But it came to pass that W just wasn’t able to climb ladders as he once did and we now have to outsource our electrical needs.

This week Christ Church is celebrating its 150th anniversary and there is going to be a big do on Saturday. Three bishops are coming, along with all the other guests. (Two bishops were once curates here – Bishop Bob of Aberdeen & Orkney, and Bishop Douglas, retired of Argyll & The Isles.) Of course we want everything looking spick and span for the great day and one of the jobs needing doing was fitting some new light bulbs in church. This involves a climb up a very tall ladder (Health & Safety Office look away now!) and we are running out of fit volunteers to do this kind of job. So we had to call in our local lovely electricians Robertsons to do the job and they did a grand job too.

I was telling W when we were setting up the altar on Saturday when he was in doing sacristy stuff. “I really miss not being able to do all these jobs for church,” he said. And it was said in such a heartfelt way. That made me think of all the folk who now make up most of our little flock who used to be active members, sharing their skills to keep the wheels turning. The joiners and electricians and metal-workers and bank managers and everyone who brought their ‘transferrable skills’ to be used at Christ Church. For 150 years those people have kept the Episcopal presence in Falkirk and shared their expertise as a form of ministry. And how frustrating they must now feel that they can’t do it any more.

Do these once-upon-a-time movers and shakers sit in the pews and wonder what we’re doing with their legacy? Like W, do they all wish they could do more? It must be really hard for them. Frustrating, possibly. I came to the conclusion we really must treasure them all the more. We had a funeral last week of a lady who, with her late husband, had been really involved with Christ Church in their younger days. Without them all Christ Church just wouldn’t be the church it is today. At our 150th anniversary it is to them we must give thanks.

W doesn’t realise, of course, how valuable he still is at Christ Church. He serves at the altar, he does the Sacristy on a rota and helps as Sidesperson when he’s not doing everything else. His lovely wife does the altar linens too and without them we’d be lost. W had a fall yesterday coming out of church bringing back lovely starched fair linen cloths. Not serious but it gave them a fright.

So let us give thanks for W and all those whom we sometimes take for granted. And let us pray for a speedy recovery for W, that he may be fit for Saturday’s celebrations.

altar server prayer

Server for over 70 years hangs up his cotta

This week I received a very sad letter from one of my altar servers. He tells me that he must give up serving at Our Lord’s Table because his wife has dementia and he feels that he must sit with her because she loses her place in the service and gets frustrated and then embarrassed. He explains that now he must sit with her because he is indebted to her for sharing 61 years of marriage.  He also believes that Our Lord, to whom he speaks frequently, is aware of his situation and will accept his decision.

A server for over 70 years, a faithful soul who never turns up late, helps other new servers in training, and administers the chalice with love and devotion. A server who never makes a fuss, and who clearly is devoted to Our Lord.

I don’t mind telling you that I wept when I read his letter because I know how much serving means to him. But what love and devotion this man shows. We can all learn from him.