Anglican Nuts and Bolts – The Sacristy

The Sacristy April 2016
By Father Nico

The organization for the Sunday Eucharist begins long before the members of the congregation enter the church on Sunday. Much of the preparation begins in the sacristy.

The sacristy is the room where the sacred vessels are prepared for use on Sunday morning. Inside the room is a fair amount of cupboard space so items such as the chalice (the large cup we use) and linens can be stored properly and kept in the best condition. The various hangings we use to decorate the church throughout the year are stored there as well.

The word sacristy derives from the Latin word sacristia, which derives from the older Latin word sacer. As you probably have guessed, the Latin word sacer is also the word from which we derive the word sacred.

For Christians, the word sacred refers to things which are connected with the worship of God. These things, therefore, are dedicated to a specific religious purpose. So the name sacristy is quite appropriate for the room where we store the things which help us in our worship.

The sacristy is generally located inside the church. But on occasion, they can be found in separate buildings. Many churches are built with the sacristy directly behind the main altar or at either side.

In some churches, the sacristy is also where the priest and attendants vest and prepare before the service. In other churches, like ours, there is a separate room for this function called the vestry.

Within the sacristy is a special basin or sink called the piscina or sacrarium which is used for pouring out the water remaining from the washing of the sacred vessels and linens after the Eucharist. The piscina drains directly into the ground to prevent sacred items such as used baptismal water from being washed into the sewers or septic tanks.