WHAT IS A GUILD?
A guild is an organization of artisans. The medieval guild featured three levels of expertise: the apprentice, the journeyman, and the master. The apprentice learned the craft, the journeyman worked in the trade, and after years of experience and completion of an approved “masterpiece,” a journeyman could himself become a master.
The term guild derives from the Anglo-Saxon root geldan which meant ‘to pay, contribute.’ The noun form of geldan meant an association of persons contributing money for some common purpose. The root also meant ‘to sacrifice, worship.’ Later the German meaning of guild as referring to gold continued to evolve into the idea of a collaborative gold standard of excellence. From this concept arose another meaning for the word geldan: to gild something was to decoratively cover it, usually in fine gold leaf.
All of these meanings carry the idea of worth—a price that you are willing to pay for excellence. A guild carries this idea of costly worth within a collaborative community. It took years of disciplined effort for the apprentice to become a master, and once he had achieved this level he often had to pay a fee for the privilege of belonging to the guild of masters. But it was worth paying for, as only the proven best, the gold standard of artisans, could belong to the guild.
Though far removed from the medieval guilds of which he reminds me, there is a modern artist who illustrates this spirit of costly excellence: Makoto Fujimura. He creates stunningly powerful art through his abstract use of color, and having an aversion to modern art I wanted to learn more about this artist who had won my admiration. I discovered that he searches the world for the finest gold, which he then reduces to powder and mixes in his paints. When asked why he would go to such great lengths to furnish his palette with the most costly materials in the world, he replied that God is deserving of the very best he can create. God held nothing back when He created, so how could he do anything less?
Likewise, it is the mission of the Lamplighter Guild to maintain a gold standard of worth and excellence. In essence, “I will not offer unto the Lord that which cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24)