After a wonderful conversation with Amelia Willson, I asked her to write a piece for the ePISTLE about her experience as an acolyte. I have two ulterior motives for this. The first is that I hope others who might be interested in serving as an acolyte might read this and be motivated to take the next step. It truly is a wonderful way to serve Christ and his church. The second is that I hope this article will be the first in an ongoing occasional series in which parishioners talk about their own ministries at Trinity and how their involvement draws them closer to Christ. Because in the end, that’s what we’re about.
Yours faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Dr. Kara N. Slade
To Be an Acolyte
I arrive early—a half hour before the service, and in an empty sacristy I choose a cassock and pull it on. With my back to the pews as I light the tall candles of the high altar, I can hear people making their way to their usual pews. By the time I’ve finished, the organist has arrived and begun to warm up. Beautiful tones fill the once quiet space. After lighting the last candles, I head up the aisle, past someone setting the Eucharistic table, a priest or two dashing about, and the ushers pinning flowers to their lapels. We all greet each other, pleased to see familiar faces and knowing we are all doing our special part in the day’s service. As acolyte, I am one among them.
I chat with ushers while I wait. The church fills, and the priests arrive. The first notes of the opening hymn are struck, and I take up the crucifix, look once to note everyone is ready, and begin my small but sacred part in a beautiful procession for the greatest celebration known to man. In an instant and for all of us, the mood has gone from happy anticipation to solemn and purposeful.
An acolyte does many jobs during the service. I take the plate offerings from the ushers, assist the priest preparing for the Eucharist, and serve as chalice bearer. All the while I am ever aware that I am surrounded by people I know and love, the priests dedicated to us and their passion to serve Christ, and the sacred mission we share. At the end, I think about all the people I saw that day. I think about the gospel’s message and the homily. Now the church is empty again. The energy and enthusiasm are gone with those who came to celebrate Christ, priests and parishioners alike. It is done and it was all good, and I was a part of it.
This is how it feels to be an acolyte. I am trusted with meaningful tasks, honored to be shoulder to shoulder with priests and all those who work at each service, and thanked for my contributions. Being an acolyte is about being part of the Church’s heartbeat—having a place in the great goings-on. It is an honor that I did not earn except to volunteer when I was needed. But I have my place now, among so many people whom I admire and who serve in big and small ways. We all pull together and the service becomes a living testament to each other and to God, and the acolyte is there helping to make it happen. In its own way and for me, it is thrilling.