So you want to be an Altar Server. Or you’re going to Seminary. Or you’ve been roped into being a Thurifer so many times that you might as well go ahead and make it official. At some point in your training/hazing (sorry Seminarians, but let’s call a Spade a Spade) someone will either hand you a catalogue with a combination of vestments circled (which you will be expected to order,) or you will be handed a very well-loved vestment that has been with the Church since the first printing of the 1929 Prayer Book. It was most likely sized for a portly gentlemen who was five feet tall.
Neither of these options is ok.
Before the panic sets in, let’s make one thing perfectly clear: There is nothing particularly sacred about any particular church supply company. Even if they’re your Priest’s favorite, they’re operating in the same online marketplace everyone else is operating in, and it is absolutely appropriate to expect the same level of care and service from a church supply co. as you would from any other online seller. This means that the whole experience is something you should take into account. Is their site easy to navigate? Are they able to accommodate unique orders (size/cut/material) without slapping you with an egregious premium? Are their invoices clear and easy to read? Do they provide free tracking for shipped items?
For many businesses that came to fruition in the online marketplace all of those criteria are second nature, but church supply is a venerable (read: old) industry that in many cases has had to make the transition to the world of online sales. Many of these sellers have come into the online age in much the same way the Church has (read: poorly.) For those of us who order out of paper catalogues about as often as we use floppy discs, our expectations for ease of ordering and quality of service are worlds beyond what the traditional by-mail catalogue has to offer. If the supplier you’re looking at hasn’t taken this into account then you should feel absolutely okay in looking for one who has. Even if they weren’t the one your Priest recommended.
If you’re the lucky recipient of a well-worn and well-loved vestment that doesn’t fit at all, then take heart. Know your Priest is going to love that you take the fit and look of your vestments seriously enough to spend some time and money to ensure that you are appropriately vested for the service of God’s Altar. Proper decorum in public worship matters. If you can’t get behind that, then at least get behind the fact that comfortable and affordable vestments matter.
In every other niche market you’d have a Litany of reviews and write ups to guide you on your way to making the best choice in terms of quality, price, and service. That isn’t the case with church supply.
We’re trying to change that.
So when you go home and start looking around, just relax. The Broke Churchman is here for you. We’ll help you find something nice.