Reflections on Guilds
When my husband and I moved our family to Holland and Grace Episcopal Church in 1974, the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) was the coordinating body for all women of the church. It was the best way to get to know each other as well as to learn about the various ministry opportunities for women. At that time women, were limited in their roles; most vestries were comprised of only men and the ordination of women was still a few years from being approved by the national church.
Some women were members of the Altar Guild, also known then as the Rector’s Guild. One had to be invited to join this service guild by the priest, and no non-Altar Guild member would have ever dared to venture into the sacristy or sanctuary.
The other guilds provided a vital platform for social interaction and communication for the women of the church. Our Grace Church ECW had three such guilds:
- St Ann’s – for young, stay at home moms
- St. Elizabeth’s – for older women and empty nesters
- St. Mary’s – originally established as a study guild
All of these guilds worked together on fund raising projects to purchase unbudgeted needs of the church, including our current china and silverware. The guilds also coordinated and staffed the huge annual rummage sale and held periodic bake sales as well.
A representative from each guild served on the ECW Board, which met monthly and, among other business, determined how the thousands of dollars from its fundraising initiatives would be spent. Often the priest would drop in on a meeting with his suggestions for spending the monies.
St. Mary’s is the only remaining women’s guild and continues its heritage as a study guild. In the beginning, members gathered in homes, but membership grew over time. When church renovations added meeting spaces, St. Mary’s meetings eventually moved to the forum room.
The Guild meets on the first Monday of each month. Each calendar year, members submit program ideas, calls are made to potential speakers, and magically we end up with wonderful programs. Our meetings are open to everyone and we encourage guests, whether they are members of Grace or not. Even men are now welcome!
Our meetings begin with a prayer or inspirational reading, and members sign up in pairs to hostess a meeting and bring refreshments.
Some examples of our recent programs include:
- Singalong led by Steve Jenkins
- Talk presented by our Holland Mayor
- P.E.T. program
- Instructional visit to Herrick Library
- Tour of Windmill Island
- Trip to St. Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers
- Tour of Castle Park
- Book Study
- Presentation by Paul Trapp on the history of Grace Church
Each year we also spend one meeting making Christmas gifts for the shut-ins of Grace Church. And we celebrate the holidays and enjoy a special evening of socializing with an Epiphany party/potluck at someone’s home every January. Each member brings a gift that is delivered to either Women In Transition or Harbor Humane Society.
We welcome anyone to learn, pray, and play with us.
Submitted by: Jill Mendenhall (with help from Val Ambrose)