Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church


Foley, Minnesota

Instructions for Being a Worship Assistant at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church      Printable PDF

To be an acolyte is to be part of an age-old (since at least AD251) tradition of service both to the Church and to our Lord. The office of the acolyte has always been an integral part of a worship service. Worship at Gustavus Adolphus is no exception. The acolyte acts as a true worship assistant to the pastor. It is important to realize this in order that an acolyte approaches this service with the proper perspective.

Without an acolyte, the service cannot begin since the first duty of an acolyte is to see that the proper candles are lit. The second duty of an acolyte may be to act as a crucifer, the person who carries the processional cross leading the people into the act of worship. We do not have a Crucifix to carry at this time so the acolyte walks in with a flame instead. The crucifer also leads the people forth in service after worship is over after extinguishing the candles and lighting the taper again to carry the flame out. In between, the acolyte is responsible for distributing the offering plates to the ushers and receiving the plates from the ushers after the offering has been taken. When the Eucharist is celebrated, the acolyte is responsible for assisting in the collection of empty glasses.

As a worship assistant, an acolyte should approach his or her task with the utmost of respect. Proper posture must be observed while walking, standing, and sitting. Remember, like it or not, you are on display in front of the congregation. Please, no gum chewing. The acolyte should be vested as the other participants and should take care that the vestments are in good condition and clean. While an acolyte is not making a fashion statement with what he or she wears under the vestments, one's choice of clothing should tend to the conservative in order that he or she is not distracting to the worship service. The acolyte should also maintain proper grooming and see that hair is washed and combed and hands are clean.

As an acolyte, you should plan on arriving at least fifteen minutes before the start of the service. This should give you enough time to vest and look over the bulletin to see if there are any changes to be made in the liturgy (i.e. baptisms etc.) Take the candle lighter down from its hook in the closet. Then go and wait at the usher's table for the start of the service. An usher will help you light the candle lighter.

Once the service begins and you walk down the aisle, carry the candle lighter with the flame pointing away from you at a slight angle forward. Starting at the doors in the narthex, proceed to the altar and stop at the center front of the altar, just before the step, and pause to show reverence to the altar, to the cross. This can be done in several ways – a slight pause, a nod of the head or with a bow. Now, step up to the altar to light the candles.

The candle on the left side is lit first. If you have had to move to the candle, you should reverence the altar (a simple bow) when you go to light the candle on the pulpit side. Once you have lit both candles, reverence the altar and then proceed to the front pew and put your candle lighter under the pew. You should take time to locate the service and hymns in the hymnal and spend any time left before the service begins in prayerful contemplation.

If there is to be a baptism during the worship service, the paschal or Christ candle is lit first. The paschal candle is lit for all baptisms, funerals, and from the Vigil of Easter through Ascension Day.

Since the acolyte is a true worship assistant, he or she should be attentive to the service. When it is appropriate to stand, the acolyte should not look for the lead from the congregation but, rather, should serve as a leader for the congregation. Likewise, the acolyte should be seated at the appropriate times. When the acolyte is not performing an active role in the service, he or she should still be involved in worship.

The acolyte should be focused on the speaker whether the lessons are being read, the sermon being delivered, or the prayers being offered. He or she should try to ignore any of the various distractions that often occur during the service. He or she should also be alert to what is going on. If a candle should go out, it should be discreetly relit.

At the appropriate time for the offering, the acolyte should take the offering plates and go to the top of the step in front of the altar with the plates. Once given to the ushers, you may be seated in the big chair by the altar until the offering is collected. He or she should go to receive the offering during the offertory after the choral anthem or instrumental offertory. After receiving the offering, the acolyte should turn to the altar and place the offering plates on the front pulpit side of the altar (more or less in line with the altar book and stand). After doing this they may go to the large chair by the altar (if Holy Communion will be served) or back to the front pew and continue following along with the service.

During the Eucharist (Holy Communion), the acolyte's task is to collect the empty cups in the special basket. Working with the lay assistant, he or she should see that the communion goes smoothly. After all have communed, the acolyte, lay assistant and organist take communion. When finished the acolyte may take the basket of empty glasses to the Sacristy.

During services with a baptism, the acolyte is to assist the presiding minister by holding the Book of Worship when necessary. Hold it open, extended away from you and try not to obscure the words that the pastor will be reading. If needed, the pastor will turn the pages. As noted above, the acolyte will see that the paschal candle is lit at the appropriate time.

Sometimes, other candles are used in the service. These include the candelabra or the Advent wreath. Regardless of how many candles there are, the two altar candles are lit first as stated above. The Advent wreath is lit after the altar candles are lit.

Extinguishing the candles also has a correct order. Taking the candle lighter from its place, carry it in a like manner as when you lit the candles. This time, the bell should face away from you. The candles of the Advent wreath are put out first. Finally, extinguish the altar candles, pulpit side first. Take care to light your candle lighter first off of the last candle and then after bowing and showing your respect, recess out of the church with the pastor.

Following the service, please hang up your robe. Should it be soiled or torn, please take it to be cleaned or repaired in time for the next service. Also, the cincture (or rope) may need periodic cleaning. Please attend to this as well. Parents, we will need your help in these matters.