Why Acolytes?

by The Rev. Matthew Addington

Have you ever wondered why the Episcopal Church has acolytes? Where did this tradition
come from? What purpose do (did) acolytes serve? These answers may surprise you.
The word acolyte comes from the Greek word akolouthos, meaning helper, follower, or
assistant. This seems very generic for the role the early acolytes served. In the 2nd and into the
third century, Christians were heavily persecuted, which meant followers of Jesus were forced
to meet under cover of night. It also meant that their “home churches” were no longer safe
places to meet, and forced them into heavily wooded areas and into caves in the sides of
Roman soldiers soon figured this out and would lay in wait watching where the torches were
going. Who were the ones caring the torches to light the way, of course, it was the acolytes.
Soldiers would move into the found locations during the day and wait on the Christians led by
acolytes to come into these areas and would kill them on the spot. Often the acolytes were the
first to die. They risked their lives every time the torch was lit, and the procession began.
It is in keeping with this tradition that acolytes have continued to lead processions in liturgical
traditions for many centuries around the world.
Being an acolyte is an honored tradition. Acolytes were once ordained by bishops as a sacred
order for those on their way to the priesthood. Acolytes remind us of the history of our church,
and what it meant to be a follower of Christ long ago. They remind us how important and even
how dangerous, how serious carrying the light of Christ is today.
In keeping with this deep, long-standing tradition of the church, we will have acolyte training on
August 28th, immediately following the 10 am service. Serving in the role of acolyte is not a duty
limited to only youth. Adults can also serve in this very important, honored position. If you feel
called to lead in this way, please join us for this training. All current acolytes are also asked to
attend as some things will be changing.

Posted by Matt Addington at 6:00 AM
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