St Matthew's Church, Wimbledon
Church of England in the Diocese of Southwark


The Altar Servers

Serving at the altar is very exciting and a great privilege. Anyone over the age of six can be involved and there are lots of different roles with interesting names: boat boy, taperer, acolyte, thurifer, crucifer and ‘MC’, which stands for the important sounding job of Master of Ceremonies!


The ‘MC’ is responsible for the smooth working of the altar team – for ensuring that everyone is in the right place at the right time so that the priest can pray the mass. He or she will also hold the altar book for the priest. The MC is an experienced server.

The Crucifer is the person who carries the big processional cross. We have different crosses for different times in the year. Normally we have a large, decorated cross but in Advent and Lent we have smaller crosses to reflect the mood of the season.

The Acolytes and Taperers work in pairs and they both carry candles. In the olden days, when churches weren’t lit quite so brightly, they had a very important role ensuring that when the Gospel procession went down into the church there was enough light on the Gospel book for the priest or deacon to be able to read it. They also fulfil other roles at the altar, such as bringing the vessels to the altar so that it can be laid up for mass and helping the priest wash his or her hands.

The Thurifer is the person who swings the thurible (or ‘metal handbag’ as it has been called). The thurible contains burning coals and the incense. The job of the thurifer is to light the coals and ensure there are enough burning coals for the times in the service when incense needs to be burned (at the beginning, for the Gospel reading and when the gifts on the altar are censed).

The Boat Boy/Girl carries the ‘boat’ (obviously!) which is actually the vessel which has the incense in it. He or she stays by the side of the Thurifer and offers the boat to the priest when he or she needs to put incense on the thurible. This role is normally undertaken by one of our younger servers.

At St Matthew’s we have an excellent team of Altar Servers, led by Head Server John Kitchener. If you are interested in joining them, please speak to John or to a member of the clergy.