St Mark’s Acolyte Customary
We call this a customary manual, because, while there are some things that are always done in the same manner (such as the lighting and extinguishing of candles), you will also notice some very slight variations because every church, service and priest can be different.
For the purposes of this manual, we are following the Sunday 8:00 AM service, but please remember that there are at least 3 other services at St. Mark’s and they can all vary slightly, especially the Sunday 9:15 which has a procession, with crosses and candles, and choir.
Therefore, I encourage everyone to have an open mind, ask questions and learn—but also to always go to a priest or deacon for the final word if you have questions.
The acolyte ministry is one of service and it is an important and special one. Acolytes, along with the other lay and ordained ministers in the Episcopal Church, are responsible for leading the congregation in wonder, love and praise of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Acolytes assist the ordained and licensed ministers at worship service by lighting the altar candles, carrying torches, crosses and the Gospel book in the procession, helping to prepare the wine and water for Holy Communion, and assisting priests and deacons in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and other rites, such as weddings and funerals.
The acolyte ministry began in Old Testament times. The Holy Scriptures tell of the Prophet Samuel assisting Eli the priest, and of Elijah being assisted by Elisha. Early Christians continued this custom.
St. Vincent, clergy and martyr, is the patron of those who serve at the altar.
PREPARATION AND SAFETY ARE CRUCIAL
Preparation is crucial. Get a good night’s sleep, and wake early enough so you’re not rushing; we even know some who will lay out their clothes the night before.
We also emphasize safety. Get familiar with the altar at St. Mark’s so you know where the steps are, and wear comfortable, sturdy, well-fitting shoes that won’t make you slip, fall, twist your ankle or pose any other danger. When you vest, please be sure the robe isn’t so long that it will cause you to trip. Athletic shoes are fine, but please be sure they are clean, not torn and as inconspicuous as possible
Please walk carefully, and get to know, the altar; while you don’t want to be excessively slow, in the words of FR Rick: “There’s never a reason to rush during liturgy.”
Make sure you arrive at least 20 minutes before the service, and so you can vest (sometimes it takes a while to find a robe that fits), light the candles and check to be sure everything is out and in its proper place. You might even want to arrive earlier if you are still new at being an acolyte.
After the service, please put your robe back in its place, snapped and hung properly.
LIGHTING THE CANDLES
Candles are lit and extinguished in a specific order. Candles remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World, and they make us remember the days when candles and oil lamps were the only sources of indoor lighting.
This is the procedure:
1. Know the Gospel and Epistle sides. Stand in the nave (the area where the congregation would sit) and face the altar.
The side to the left, by the pulpit, is called the Gospel, while the opposite is the Epistle.