(photo credit: The Alexandria Times, https://alextimes.com/2018/12/shannon-ayres/)
At the end of a very tough news week, we decided to focus on a positive story about how old traditions are being passed on to the next generation of Episcopalians, specifically about the work of acolytes. They are not new in the life of the Church, nor is the tradition of having young people assist liturgically in those roles. Each year, a number of gatherings are held around the country to celebrate the work of acolytes. A Google search for “Episcopal acolyte festival” yielded hundreds of results for events taking place at the national and diocesan levels – a sign that not only does the work itself continue to be important within worshiping communities, but also that those engaged in it take it very seriously.
An article appearing in the Fremont News-Register, near Sandusky, Ohio, highlights the service of one faithful teenager:
Each Sunday when the Rev. Dr. Beverly Collinsworth begins the service at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, the sanctuary has already been prepared. Behind her and before her, candles flicker, lit by the church’s acolyte, 14-year-old Tyler Rodrigue-Hejhal.
… Tyler was just 8 when he first became an acolyte at his church in Arizona, before his family moved to Port Clinton.
“I wanted to help out. That was why I started originally. I wanted to help serve God, and I wanted to give the priests and Eucharistic ministers less work,” he said. “I wanted to continue to help out when I found this church.”
… “Some people are against ritual, but I believe the ritual makes the intangible tangible,” [Tyler’s mother, Sue Hejhal] said. “Ritual takes things that are spiritual and brings them down to a place we can understand them.”
So, as Tyler lights the candles in succession and carries the cross between the rows of pews, he is, to many, bringing the hallowed to the church halls.