Episco-Fact #172
January 23, 2020


FRANCISCO-FACT: What is the job of an acolyte and are there qualifications for becoming one?

Acolytes are holdovers from the Roman Catholic tradition. It was a minor office to which a candidate for the diaconate or priesthood was ordained. Commonly the phrase is used for those who serve at the altar who are not deacons, priests, or bishops, and for those who bear the candles.

There are specific names for persons who have jobs other than carrying candles. The one who bears the cross is a crucifer. The one who carries the Gospel Book is has no official designation, unless, there is a deacon who has the right and privilege, by tradition, to carry it.

In all these roles, it is important that laity are part of the function. When processions happen, they are a symbol of our own unity in the sacrifice of Christ and the importance of the story of the book. Therefore, candles light the way for the liturgy of the word found in the Gospel Book.

There is a bias among Episcopalians that acolytes and crucifers should be teens. And, it is a great way to incorporate young women and men into leadership roles in worship. But it is not exclusively a function of being a young person. An acolyte, crucifer, or book bearer can be anyone who wishes to be involved. We are looking for new folks committed to this ministry of service in worship.