The word acolyte is derived from the Greek word akolouthos, meaning companion, attendant, or helper. This ministry has its roots in the Old Testament, where the prophet Samuel is seen assisting Eli, the Levite priest. Similarly, Elisha is seen assisting Elijah the Prophet.
Today we see acolytes dressed in robes, quietly carrying torches, crosses, alms basins, and cruets of water & wine. A vital part of worship, acolytes blend into the background and help our liturgies flow smoothly. We may see acolytes doing any or all of the following, depending on the church and worship style:
Carrying torches or a cross (crucifer)
Holding the Altar Book open before the presider at the Eucharist
Bearing the Gospel Book in procession and at the proclamation
Carrying the vessels to the Lord’s Table
Washing the presider’s hands (lavabo)
Bringing additional vessels to the altar after the consecration of the bread and wine
Clearing the altar after Communion
It is recommended that each church develop a manual for their acolytes with regularly scheduled training and instruction. Church Publishing offers a simple and straightforward book, complete with illustrations, entitled A Manual for Acolytes, that may be helpful.
National Acolyte Festival
Each fall, a National Acolyte Festival takes place at the Washington National Cathedral. Acolytes, vergers, servers, and clergy from across the United States gather for a festival Holy Eucharist with re-dedication of service and an afternoon of workshops, food and fun!