Acolyte Order of St. Peter

We present the guide for the Acolyte Order of St. Peter at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church for three reasons:

  1. To give a historical view of acolytes in Episcopal churches in the era it was written (around 1968.)
  2. To help Anglican churches today in training their acolytes.
  3. To show how the “rich and famous” (or infamous) served at the altar.

If you use this in your own church, keep the following in mind:

  1. If you have problems visualising how this worked in its original setting, you can go to our slide show on Bethesda-by-the-Sea for help.
  2. Keep in mind that this routine was for services conducted under the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. If you use another prayer book or liturgy, you will need to modify the instructions accordingly.
  3. Except for corrections in grammar and spelling (which were numerous,) these instructions are as they were written. They assume an all-male acolyte order, which is seldom the case today.

The photo at the right shows some original members of the Order at their duties. If you see this photo elsewhere (like All Saints in Greenville, SC) rest assured that it came from here first.


ACOLYTE ORDER OF SAINT PETER
Bethesda-by-the-Sea
Palm Beach, Florida

  1. Instruction for Acolytes
    1. Rise early in order to have plenty of time to prepare yourself both physically and spiritually for the duties you will perform. Always try to enter the Church aware of the fact that you are being given the privilege of serving God at His altar. Pray that you nay be worthy of this honor.
    2. Remember! A good Acolyte:
      1. Stands, kneels, sits, as appropriate, in an erect position and carries himself with dignity.
      2. Avoids nervous habits, such as squirming, kicking, playing with his hands or cross, folding or rustling paper, shifting weight from one foot to the other while standing.
      3. When not holding an object during the service, keeps his right fist held in his left hand, just above waist level.
      4. Follows the service in the Prayer Book and Hymnal.
      5. Pays attention to everything the Priest says – including the Sermon.
      6. Except when giving the Alms Basin to (or receiving them from) the Ushers, and lighting or extinguishing Altar Candles, never side-steps when moving from place to place, but turns and walks wherever he goes.
      7. Performs his duties naturally and easily: avoids stiffness and uneasiness.
      8. Is alert and sure of himself; knows his job.
      9. Behaves himself and avoids unnecessary talking and whispering.
    3. Dress:
      • If possible wear black -shoes (well polished), white shirt and dark tie – be sure that your hands and fingernails are clean.
    4. Before the Service:
      • Arrive twenty minutes before the service. This gives ample time to vest, receive special instructions and to light the Altar Candles.
    5. Lighting the Altar Candles:
      1. Proceed to the Chancel, with your Taper lighted, by the shortest route, advance into the Sanctuary, pause before the altar and reverence the Altar (Bow), then ascend the Altar steps.
      2. Light the Epistle Side (right) candle first, then the Gospel Side (left).
      3. Descend the Altar steps facing the congregation, turn, reverence the Altar (bow) and return to the Sacristy by the shortest route.
      4. Extinguish your taper and return it to its holder.
    6. Entrance and Service through the Epistle:
      1. Crucifers, flag bearers and torch bearers will precede the choir in entering the Church. Acolytes will follow the choir but precede the Clergy. All will halt at the Altar rail and step aside to allow the Clergy to enter the Sanctuary. All will then proceed to their appointed places – the Acolyte who will serve the Priest kneeling in the end stall on the Epistle Side inside the Sanctuary.
      2. Kneel to the reading of the Epistle.
    7. The Gospel and the Creed.
      1. At the words “Here endeth the Epistle” the Acolyte serving the Priest will rise, go to the center of the Altar, bow, and ascend the Altar steps on the Epistle Side.
      2. 8 a.m. Take the missal and missal stand – holding them firmly – descend the Altar stair and place missal and missal stand on the Gospel side of the Altar at a 45° angle, facing the Priest and return to your place.
      3. 10 a.m. In the event another member of the Clergy reads the Gospel, you will carry the missal and missal stand to him and re-gain holding the missal stand during the reading of the Gospel. After the reading of the Gospel you will return the missal find missal stand to the Gospel side of the Altar. Return to your place.
    8. The Offertory
      1. At the end of the Creed the Priest will read, one or more Offertory sentences (Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, etc.)
      2. When the Priest uncovers the Chalice you will rise and. go directly to the Credence table – if there are cruets (bottles) on the Credence table you will remove the tops.
      3. Pick up the Ciboriun (wafer box) and carry it to the Priest -remove the cover with your right hand – the Priest will remove the necessary number of wafers. Replace the cover and return the Ciborium to the Credence table.
      4. You will now take the wine cruet in your right hand and the water cruet in your left hand – if you are using the silver pitchers, be sure the handles face the Priest. Return to your place at the Epistle Side of the Altar.
      5. Bow and present the wine cruet to the Priest – as he takes it, move the writer cruet from your left hand to your right hand – receive bock the wine cruet in your left hand – after the priest has taken the water cruet move the nine cruet to your right hand – receive the water cruet in your left hand and return both cruets to their place on the Credence table. The Lavabo – Father Cary does not normally use the Lavabo but will tell you in advance if he intends to. When the Lavabo is being used – place the Lavabo in your left hand, and take the water cruet in your right hand – go to the Altar where the Priest will hold his fingers over the Lavabo – pour a little water over his finders -wait for the priest to dry his fingers on the towel – return his bow – go to the Credence table and return cruet, Lavabo and towel to their places,
      6. At this point the Alms Basins are presented to the ushers from the Chancel steps.
  2. The Communion
    1. You will kneel or sit during the administration of the Communion. Do not stare at the people receiving.
    2. When the Priest finishes administering Communion rise up and go to the Credence table.
    3. Remove the tops from the cruets – take the wine in your right hand and the water in your left.
    4. Go to the Altar – the Priest will hold the Chalice towards you and you will pour first a small amount of wine in the Chalice and then a small amount of water – Father Cary normally will use only the water; therefore, when assisting Father Cary you will only carry the water cruet for him – return the cruets to the Credence table and return to your place,
    5. After prayers you will stand when the Priest stands and leave the Sanctuary, preceding him in the Recessional.
  3. Duties of Crucifer
    1. A Crucifer may be used at all services. His primary duty is to lead processions and recessions. Two crucifers may be used at special services such as Christmas and Easter.
    2. Getting ready for Services
      1. Arrive at least twenty minutes before the time of the service and vest in your alb, sash and white gloves. Obtain the cross from its permanent holder and proceed to the point where the procession will form.
      2. The Crucifer will lead the processional – walking in a natural manner and as near in time with the Hymn as possible – hold the cross in a vertical position – the left hand should be around the staff just below the ball – the right hand a foot lower on the staff to steady the cross.
      3. Proceed with dignity into the Chancel and. halt before the Sanctuary steps, holding the cross without wavering
      4. At the conclusion of the processional hymn turn and place the cross in its holder, making sure it is properly placed and securely fastened.
      5. Move directly to your assigned seat,
    3. It is the responsibility of the Crucifer to coordinate the duties of the Flag and Torch Bearers. He will select the Acolyte to handle the Alms Basins.
    4. Closing Prayers and Recession:
      1. Upon announcement by the Priest of the recessional Hymn you will take the cross from its holder -make sure that the torches and flags are ready- and in position – walk to the center of the Chancel Aisle and, holding the cross in proper vertical position, stand facing the Altar at the Sanctuary step.
      2. Upon completion of the second stanza of the recessional Hymn, turn and lead the recession slowly down the center aisle.
      3. Walk with a natural gait reasonably adapted to the Hymn – proceed with dignity to the rear of the Church.
      4. Guide the recession to its “break up” point, then return to the Acolyte’s room – place the cross in its permanent holder – remove your vestments and hang them neatly on the hangers provided.
  4. Duties of the Torch Bearers
    1. Getting ready for Service
      1. Arrive twenty minutes ahead of the service time.
      2. Robe in cassock and cotta.
      3. Obtain your torch and matches – do not light torch until procession is ready to move.
    2. Entrance
      1. Hold your left hand above your right on the torch staff with the torch base on a level with your eyes. Take places either side of the Crucifer and about a half step in back of him.
      2. At the Sanctuary step, step to either side and face each other so that the Clergy may enter the Sanctuary – return to position facing the Altar after the Clergy has entered.
      3. At the conclusion of the processional Hymn extinguish the torches, place them in their holders and take your assigned seat.
      4. Following service, relight torches and join the Crucifer at the Sanctuary steps.
      5. When the Crucifer turns and faces the congregation, you will turn towards each other and accompany the Crucifer in the Recessional.
    3. C. After the Service
      1. Extinguish torches and place them securely in holders.
      2. Remove vestments and hang them neatly on hangers provided.
  5. Duties of the Flag Bearers
    1. Getting ready for Service
      1. Arrive twenty minutes before service tire,
      2. Robe in cassock and cotta.
      3. Obtain flags and go to the formation point.
    2. Entrance
      1. Flag Bearers follow the Crucifer and Torch Bearers, keeping a distance of about four feet between them. The American Flag is carried to the right of the Church Flag and the State Flag follows, in the center of the aisle.

2 thoughts on “Acolyte Order of St. Peter”

Leave a Reply