Torchbearers are responsible for carrying the torches that precede the celebrant in the entering and retiring processions, and during the gospel and offertory processions.

Carrying a Torch

Carry the torch straight up and down, with the right hand on the upper part of the stick and the left hand on the lower, spaced about 6 - 8 inches apart. Prior to the service, torchbearers should coordinate to determine a comfortable carrying position that will ensure that the torches are held at the same height. If there is a height disparity between torchbearers, the taller partner should accommodate the shorter by carrying his or her candle lower. Hold the candle far enough out front, without discomfort, so that knees do not knock into it while walking.

Responsibilities and Conduct


Torchbearers are expected to arrive no later than 30 minutes prior to their assigned service. Repeated tardiness will result in probationary status and possible dismissal from the Guild.


Upon arriving, torchbearers should vest in cassock (and rope cincture, where appropriate) and surplice.

Checking Torches

It is the responsibility of the torchbearers to check the oil level of their torches as well as the torches that flank the eagle lectern. Should the level be low, enquire of a member of the Altar Guild to refresh the oil supply.

Lighting and Extinguishing the Altar Tapers

Torchbearers are responsible for lighting the altar tapers prior to the start of the service. Tapers should be lit no later than 15 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the service. See “Order for Lighting Altar Candles” for more information.

Entering Procession

Torchbearers lead the sacred ministers in procession, following the choir. Upon reaching the altar rail, torchbearers turn and move into the passageway near the sacristy and place their torches in the stands located there, extinguishing them. They then re-enter the quire and take seats in the rear-most row of the stalls on the gospel side of the quire.

Liturgy of the Word

Torchbearers taking standing and sitting cues from the minister of ceremonies, remaining standing for the opening salutation, Collect for Purity, Summary of the Law, Kyrie (when used) and Gloria, observing reverences as outlined above at the appropriate time. Torchbearers sit at the Old Testament and New Testament readings.

Following the cues of the minister of ceremonies, stand for the Nicene Creed and Intercessions, and kneel for the Confession of Sin.


During the Peace, the torchbearers are to retrieve their torches from the stands outside of the sacristy and follow the crucifer out of the  sanctuary past the sacristy in an orderly, decorous manner, ultimately arriving at the narthex for the Offertory procession, lighting the torches prior to processing.

Canon of the Mass

Upon reaching the ambit of the altar from the Offertory procession, torchbearers should move into position standing at corners of the altar steps facing the altar, holding the torches with the butt of the staff resting on the bottom step. After the Sanctus and Benedictus, and at the cue from the minister of ceremonies, torchbearers should kneel, holding the torches upright.


Torchbearers should stand to receive Communion with the rest of the altar party, and upon receiving Communion should move to the outside of the rail to assist in closing the gates and moving the kneeling cushions into place. While Communion is being administered to the congregation, torchbearers should be seated in the rear row of the gospel side of the choir stalls. When the last communicant has left the altar rail, torchbearers should approach the rail to move the kneeling cushions and help open the rail.

Post-Communion Prayer and Retiring Procession

Torchbearers should kneel on the bottom-most step of the altar during the Post-Communion Prayer and Blessing. Immediately after the blessing, torchbearers move to their respective sides of the altar to retrieve the snuffers, and approach the altar to extinguish the tapers in the prescribed order. The torchbearers then retrieve their torches and join the procession, following the choir and leading the celebrant.