Steadfast in Society: Liturgics and the Young

March 17th, 2013 Post by

Altar boys 1At this past Lenten Wednesday service we (Divine Savior Lutheran Church, Shepherdsville, KY) had an opportunity to introduce a couple of young men into the service of our Lord. Many parishes often times have struggles with getting the young to want to participate in the service. It may be serving as an Acolyte or a Crucifer. But we have to ask the question why are so many of our young people unwilling or not wanting to serve the Pastor in delivering the Gospel?
There is an innumerable amount of publications that teach us how to raise our youth so that they will, “stick with the faith.” But most all of them miss the mark. Why? Because they are too busy telling Pastors to be concerned about making the Church interesting or “relevant” to our youth rather than teaching them the marks of the Church and having them serve in reverence. This is a huge problem. Youth trips are great. Servant events are great. But seeing the faith in young men’s eyes as they desire to serve our Lord in the Divine Service is something else entirely.
I witnessed two (and one who wanted to serve next Wednesday) children who were begging to serve the Lord only by lighting candles. Mark 10 kept coming to my mind, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” We must teach our youth the importance of the Divine Service. We do so by teaching them catechesis and by showing them the faith in the participation in the Divine Service.
What more is there for our youth than teaching them the right reception of God’s gifts? Nothing! I thank God for these young men who are willing to step up and desire to serve Christ. They are the youth that does not desire to serve Christ arbitrarily, but liturgically. Our youth crave liturgics. Why give them anything else? They are the children of God who we should be, receiving and serving. Christ didn’t make His church difficult. Christ made His church simple that even a child can understand it. They and we must understand it as that which is promised: the word and the sacraments. This promise extends to all who are present; Crucifers, acolytes, Pastor, and congregation. Praise be to Christ that we all receive the forgiveness of sins through the means of grace!
Who wouldn’t want to serve this Divine Service? Who wouldn’t want to partake in the perfection that the body and blood of Christ gives? To that, I have no answer. But I can tell you that our youth have a desire and want for it. Give it to them! Let them serve! Encourage them to serve! Just the lighting of a candle is a confession of faith. Put aside your youth paradigms. Put aside your youth publications. Just let them light a candle. It is a confession of faith from a child and the kingdom of God is theirs. We can learn a lot from these young faithful Christians. May we learn from them in humbleness and humility.

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  1. March 17th, 2013 at 11:33 | #1

    Our pastor does acolyte training each year for new and returning acolytes. He has a 6-week program that all acolytes, new and returning, need to attend. A few weeks ago, we dedicated 6 young men to service as acolytes for the coming year. It is a joy to see them serve properly as acolytes, crucifers and book-holders during our services! Thank you, Gavin, for doing the same at your church.

    (For those who may be wondering … girls serve as part of the Junior Altar Guild. They assist the adult AG members in the cleaning and putting away of the communion ware, and other things along the way.)

  2. RomGabe
    March 17th, 2013 at 12:45 | #2

    Dennis, what church do you service/attend? I would love to visit there, when possible.

    I worship at Sankt Hans in Odense Denmark (a conservative lutheran state-church -folkekirke- among an ocean of confession-less Folkekirker)

  3. Tim Schenks
    March 18th, 2013 at 02:49 | #3

    We used to have those same cassocks/surplices and wax tapers when I was an acolyte years ago. Nice.

    It was never voluntary for us, though.

  4. March 18th, 2013 at 05:23 | #4

    Kantor Dennis Boettcher :
    (For those who may be wondering … girls serve as part of the Junior Altar Guild. They assist the adult AG members in the cleaning and putting away of the communion ware, and other things along the way.)

    We’ve always had both boy and girl acolytes ever since we started using them when I was about four years old. They start during 5th grade Pre-Confirmation class and continue through the end of high school. When they reach high school age the girls can also join the Altar Guild and the boys can volunteer to be ushers, both still serving as acolytes when scheduled.

  5. March 18th, 2013 at 09:53 | #5

    @RomGabe #2 — My church is located in the USA, the state of Wisconsin, in a little village north of Milwaukee called Adell. (Click my name to the left of this post to see our website.) Anytime you are stateside, you are most welcome.

    @Tim Schenks #4 — Our leadership chose this division of duties because, as acolytes participate within the Divine Service as crucifers and book-bearers, having females in the roles of leading worship could be seen as giving allowance for female lay readers, female elders, yes, even female pastors. Since we have both acolytes and the Junior Altar Guild, to my knowledge, nobody has raised a single complaint about the arrangement.

  6. R.D.
    March 19th, 2013 at 06:28 | #6

    @Kantor Dennis Boettcher #5

    At best it is extremely awkward when a female crucifer comes marching down the processional or when a female acolyte is participating during communion. Kudos to your church leadership, Kantor Boettcher.

  7. March 20th, 2013 at 01:11 | #7

    @R.D. #6 — On behalf of our church leadership, thanks!

    At best it is extremely awkward when … Not only that, it sends mixed messages to the people in the pew … “girls can do this, but they can’t do that” …

  8. jb
    March 27th, 2013 at 18:29 | #8

    If the LCMS wants to fix its approach to the minor offices, it will likewise do so with the majors. That not being on the immediate horizon, and all of it falling into the realm of adiaphora anyway, what I do is this . . .

    Since I have searched in vain in Scripture and the Confessions for advice otherwise . . .

    My two oldest females (13 & 14) serve as “crucifers” most often. They do not enter the chancel proper (inside the altar rail). My very youngest saints (M or F – 3-6 y.o.), take the Collection of the Saints. I permit them to sit with the acolytes, who are always male, from the age they can light the altar candles on up. Theotokos bore the Christ, so can my young ladies.

    All are vested in albs. Their behavior during the Divine Liturgy is impeccable. Their Processionals and Recessionals are done with a precision that would make a Marine Corps Drill Sgt. weep with joy.

    In our miniature congregation, I have 14 “yutes” not still in diapers, and 15 of them want to serve every week. It has drawn the parents of several back into worship regularly, and I have found none of it to be awkward in either “message” or form – but rather – an excellent way to engage my kiddies and get them to focus on the catechism and the roles of men and women in the Church. Been doing it since ’86 . . . haven’t had one young lady or her family send their daughters to Sem, but I do have a few male “re-productions” – and my oldest young son, who at age 12 can read the OT Lesson flawlessly, will grace CTS in a decade or less.

    The young saints will embrace the Divine Liturgy, given half a chance, and as prophesied, the young child shall lead us all.

    I watch it happen every week. Nothing “awkward” about it, and my crucifers are furrily intelligent and understand they are hardly “leading worship.”

    Pax – jb

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