As promised, each Verger’s Viewpoint will focus on a role within our worship service ministries for the next several months. Last month’s article, as well as this month’s, focuses on Acolytes.

Acolytes – Part II

Training children to serve as acolytes is like folding a fitted sheet. No matter how hard you try, you can never fold a fitted sheet to look as neat as the day it came out of its packaging.

During a most sacred liturgical moment, a child sits at the altar, wiggling with uncontained energy. Just as Rev. Kate speaks the most solemn words of the Eucharistic Prayer, the child loses his grip on his bulletin, which catches a draft, wafting on the air currents, floating slowly to the ground. The child leaps to retrieve it, and his chair bangs loudly against the wall. We watch transfixed. Horrified. Do we laugh? Do we send the child a chastising glare? Or, do we smile gently at the child, as we know “children will be children.”The ultimate question is this: how are we called to help form our acolytes? What matters most?

We know this. St. John’s has received a tremendous gift. Our community is vibrant, benefiting from a number of young persons who are eager to serve at the altar. With this gift comes a joyful responsibility. Each of us is called to nurture these young people, embracing them as they continue to grow in faith. Recently, as we pondered the question “what matters most?” a few of our parents were asked to describe how we might structure an acolyte program that would best foster this growth. The feedback we received was both beautiful and enlightening.

One parent offered these guiding words: “As far as skills go, I’m mostly interested in him learning the significance behind what he is doing, to learn the joy in serving and in the giving of his time, and for him to socially feel like he is part of something. He already gets that in a tremendous way from church (the people he – and our family in general – interacts with are some of the kindest and warmest we have had the pleasure of knowing).”

Another parent offered similarly meaningful words: “I’m just so thankful to be a part of the community and build a religious foundation for myself and for my family at St John’s. Teaching my child about the kindness demonstrated by everyone, learning the commonly used religious words and practices, and making friends with the other children—that’s all I really want for him.”

The words repeated in these quotes were words of the heart: joy, giving, kindness, gratitude, formation, friendship. We are not being asked to create little acolyte soldiers marching along in perfect order. Instead, these words convey a higher calling, focusing us on what matters most: flexibility, not rigidity, acceptance, not judgment, and tolerance, not perfectionism. Gentle smiles and never chastisement.

So, I’ll forget about attempting to fold fitted sheets perfectly. For once again, I am reminded that imperfection offers the opportunity for faith to unfold perfectly.