Sunday, January 20, 2008

The 47 year old acolyte

One of the strange things about being clergy and not on the staff of the church where you worship is that you are a good emergency fill in. I've filled in at the last minute as the reader and the assisting minister, but today was a first. I was the acolyte.

I've trained dozens of acolytes but this was the first time I had performed the job and this church. Since it was all very last minute I got one of the worst fitting robes to wear. I forgot to light the Paschal Candle because I didn't know there was a baptism. I wasn't sure when to take the offering plates to the ushers. And my hubby critiqued the way I carried the processional cross.

The woman who trains and schedules the acolytes frequently fills in when the acolyte doesn't show. There were lots of acolytes at worship but they were all singing in the youth choir this morning. The last time Soda Chicky filled in to acolyte on the spot, the boss of the acolytes gave her the business. "What are you doing? You're not supposed to be doing this. You haven't been trained. You did it wrong."

This in front of witnesses. Soda Chicky was doing the pastors a favor. She'd been trained by her mother in her last parish. There hasn't been an acolyte training meeting for the last two years. AND she was talked to after she had lit the candles but before the service had even begun. As you may guess, I was glad that this woman was not at church today. I'm sure she would have given me the business!

All of this brings to mind that although there may be a "correct" or preferred ways to perform these tasks, what is important is that the tasks are performed with a sense of worship and devotion. Does it really matter which candle gets lit first? Does it really matter if the acolyte is wearing tennis shoes? Will God be offended if we don't always remember to reverence the altar at the prescribed times? I think not.


Coach said...

Did you light the candles and not set anything else on fire?

Then you did it correctly. I feel that acolyting is like taking Greek at the seminary. To survive is to win.


Ruth said...


There's no real consistency for acolytes at our church, and I don't think there has been for years. The kids who don't do it so often get so nervous and keep asking me what is "correct"....I really try and get across to them your sentiment and coach's.

We only process on Easter and Christmas! :)

Kathryn said...

As one who spent the first few months of her curacy terrorised by a sacristan who didn't recognise women's ministry and who was so neurotic about everything happening "right" that she was known to say that if the candles were lit in the wrong order God wouldn't turn up, I can only shout a triumphant agreement to your last paragraph.
Apparently at my new church some of the servers have learning difficulties so the emphasis has to be on doing your best...not on a polished "performance". Sounds pretty wonderful really :-)

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

geeze louise... this reminds me why at that magical 12 yr. old age i said to my pastor "no i'm not acolyting. if it's so important why don't the adults do it?"

and then i grew up to be a pastor... God laughs and laughs...