Guidelines for Altar Servers
Serving in the Altar is an important ministry that is all too often not taken seriously enough. We offer these two sets of guidelines in hopes that they will serve as a basis for forming one's own parish guidelines, and preserve the lofty calling of this position of service in the Church.
- Altar Boys must be clean and neat. They must be dressed and presented respectfully.
- All Altar Boys must be in the Sanctuary at least 10 minutes before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy or other scheduled services.
- Upon entering the Sanctuary, the Altar Boy saying his pre-service prayers at the South Table, and then gets his robe. He then neatly folds his robe and presents it to the priest (or the bishop if he is present) to be blessed. The Altar Boy says: "Father bless."
- He then goes to his assigned place and the Altar on the right or left of the Altar Table or behind it. When he crosses behind the Holy Table, he always makes the sign of the cross.
- Only the clergy, the Bishop, Priests and Deacons are allowed to stand or walk in front of the Holy Table. Altar Boys must NEVER cross in front of the Holy Table but rather go behind it.
- When the service is over, all Altar Boys must carefully and neatly hang their robes.
- When in the Holy Sanctuary, and Altar Boy is close to God Himself. Therefore no idle talking, laughing, chewing gum, eating or horse-play will be tolerated.
- An Altar Boy must prepare himself to receive Holy Communion at least once a month. He prepares himself by praying, meditation, fasting and Holy Confession.
- Every Altar Boy will always kiss the hand of the Priest whenever he hands him something or when the Priest returns something to him. We kiss the Priest's hand because:
- We show respect for him and his work and
- Because his hands hold the Holiest of the Holies, the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
A Rule for Altar Servers
Composed by Archbishop John of Shanghi and San Francisco
1) To serve in the sanctuary, it is necessary to take the blessing of the priest, or at an hierarchical service, the Hierarch.
2) One must come to church before the beginning of the service.
3) On entering the sanctuary, one must face the Holy Table and, on weekdays, make three profound bows from the waist.
4) Those persons who are not serving are not permitted to enter the sanctuary.
5) Only those who have gathered to serve may enter the sanctuary.
6) When vesting in their stikharions [servers' robes], servers should remove their ties.
7) When taking off the stikharion, it must be neatly folded or hung in its place.
8) In the sanctuary one should not engage in conversations, nor laugh, nor should one walk about the church, and particularly is this so during the Divine service itself.
9) All readers and altar-servers must be in stikharions. One must also obtain a blessing from the priest, or in an hierarchical service the Hierarch, to take off one's stikharion.
10) They should not touch the Holy Table nor the Table of Oblation (proskomidi).
11) They should not walk about in church during the reading of the Gospel, the Apostle or between the exclamations "The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ ..." and "And the mercies of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ be with you all."
12) Even before putting on the stikharion, their hands must be clean.
13) In the sanctuary and sacristy, nothing should be brought that is not used in the Divine services.
14) Before taking candles or the liturgical fans out, the server should cross himself before the icon in the High Place and bow to the Hierarch or priest, who stands before the Holy Table. On returning, they should repeat this.
15) One must bear in mind that the sanctuary is the most holy place, and that it is required that one stand therein with the utmost reverence; in passing the High Place one must cross oneself, and one must always follow the service with attention.
These disciplines are not kept in exactly this way in every church, but they do indicate the seriousness with which such a great saint of our times as St John took the duties of the altarservers, and should remind us of the importance of this ministry, and the good order which should be observed.