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I love my job for many reasons. One: I get to see and work with children on a regular basis. Another: I often get to sit up front and watch the congregation worship. Those two reasons dovetailed this past Sunday – let me share them with you.

Part of my job as minister of music and worship involves training new acolytes to serve us in worship. Our acolytes are extremely important worship leaders. They are the first to proclaim (without words) the presence of Christ in our worship by bringing in the light of Christ at the start of worship. Then, they carry the light of Christ out at the close of worship. When we follow them out of the sanctuary, we follow the light of Christ out in God’s world to serve in Christ’s name.

Those children who choose to lead as acolytes know how important their job is, and they take it VERY seriously. Of course, part of that may be due to the fact that acolyting involves both fire and being up in front of a lot of people. Although we emphasize “you can’t mess up worship” (our unwritten worship area mantra) and the fact that I’ve yet to hear of a church burning down from inefficient acolyting, these young worship leaders have a healthy sense of apprehension, anticipation, and awe, WHICH you can see if you watch them acolyte for the first (and perhaps second and third) time.

I been watching the appearance of our first-time acolytes. Intense concentration. Careful footsteps. Almost supernatural awareness of their partner. Sometimes frowns on their   faces. It’s really a lot harder to walk the length of our center aisle with a lighted adjustable candlewick inside a brass holder than you might think. Walk too fast and the light goes out. Walk too slow and you can almost taste the tension from the congregation and other worship leaders willing you to speed up the pace just a little. Get ahead of your partner and you might end up standing in the spotlight doing nothing for what may seem like a year and a half, even if it’s only a few seconds. And yet, every year, we have third graders who absolutely CAN’T WAIT to become acolytes. And I absolutely love them for their excitement and desire to serve.

One of the pitfalls of being on the worship staff at a church is the potential for allowing worship to become a task rather than the holy privilege it is. I am too easily caught up in who needs to do what/when/where, and I forget the sacred purpose for our gathering in the first place. And that is the final reason I am so grateful for our acolytes and their leadership: they remind us that worship is a sacred and holy privilege that deserves our best concentration and attention. The God who created us and blesses us each day is worthy to be praised with our whole hearts and minds and strength. When I see them take their role as worship leaders as seriously as they do, I am reminded to give my all to the act of worshipping, not just the work of leading worship.

One last thing: as I was leaving church last night, I saw one of our new acolytes hanging out in the childcare area while her parents were participating in one of the Sunday evening activities we offer. She said, “Are you leaving, Miss Anne?” I said, yes, I’m going home now. She looked at me with surprise and said, “Why?” I’m not sure she meant it this way, but what I heard in her tone and saw in her face was, why on earth would you want to leave this place I love, where I feel loved and valued and appreciated? I pray that’s what she meant. May we all approach the sacred and holy privilege of worshipping our God with the same fierce concentration as our new acolytes. May we also be a church where all of God’s children feel loved and appreciated and valued so much so that we can’t imagine needing to leave to go home, because we are already there.