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.