It's early on a Sunday morning.
You've beat the clergy in to the church.
Now comes the work of the day. You make sure the sign in sheet is where it should be. Acolytes, lay ministers, lectors, clergy - all need to be corraled. In theory everyone knows what they're doing, they've undertaken (hopefully) the correct classes. The clergy certainly do. You check the answering machine for apologetic messages from people who were supposed to do the reading, or carry one of the candles. In some cases folks will forget their church assignments or be stranded on the road, meaning that you're always nervously watching the door and mentally juggling who can do what - as well as watching the incoming congregation for any trained members who can back-fill for anyone missing.
It's your job to take the prayers to the head honcho for approval, and put said prayers into the intercessor's book. To make up the sheets telling the clergy who's doing what, who's presiding where. To line up acolytes, who might very well be children and therefore acting like children - as well as the absentminded older priest or the young vicar fresh out of seminary, quite nervous. To go into the church and set up the large print lectionary to the right Bible reading. To make sure everyone knows what he or she is doing. Almost show time.
And it doesn't end when you go to the front of the line and bang your verge three times on the ground to signal the start of the service, making the congregation rise to its feet at once. All through the service you're giving cues to lay ministers who've forgotten parts of their training or acolytes who haven't realized they need to be ready with the lavabo when they're about to start Communion. You're a stage manager in every sense of the word, rushing from one side to the other behind the altar and hidden from view, cueing the processions from everyone coming in at the beginning to the small party that processes out for the Gospel reading. It's also your job to hold back the parts of the procession coming in from behind who can't see the other side of the altar so that everyone comes out and lines up and proceeds out in lockstep military fashion at the end of the service.
And when it's all said and done, you take a moment to breathe, take in the well wishes and congratulations - and then check the message machine again, while keeping an eye out for that lector you saw in the seventh row pew who'd be perfect to stay behind for the 11:15 because your planned lector called in sick.
Only two more services to go.
Until the 4:00pm Evensong.