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Ask the UMC: Where did the use of Acolytes originate?

Acolytes have been part of the church in one form or another for nearly 2,000 years.

The word acolyte comes from the Greek word akolouthos, meaning follower, a helper or assistant. In the early church, acolytes were a clerical order. Acolytes carry into worship the light, processional cross, banners or Bible and assist the pastor with communion, baptism and other duties. Children and youth often serve as acolytes, but adults can serve as well.

“Jesus said: ‘I am the light of the world’” (John 8:12). The presence of the light reminds us of Jesus coming into our world and into our lives. The light is carried into the worship service as a symbol of Jesus coming into the presence of the worshiping community.

Many congregations use two candles on the altar to point out that Jesus was both a human being and God. At the end of the service, the light is carried out into the world to show that Jesus Christ is for all people everywhere. … This symbolizes the light of Jesus Christ going out into the world where believers are to serve.” (Worship Matters, Vol II, “The Work of Acolytes”)

Read more about the history of acolytes.

Chuck Knows Church: Acolytes

Have questions? Ask the UMC. And check out other recent Q&As.

This content was produced by InfoServ, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.

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