31 December 2012

The Real Issue With Female Acolytes


I’ve been chewing, for some time, on the practice of having males only serve as liturgical assistants and acolytes in the Church. At my current congregation, for many years both boys and girls had been allowed to serve in this way. Most of our circuit congregations allow it.

The only definitive position that the Synod takes in its quasi-official documents is that there is no Scriptural prohibition to it. So, anyone who would use males only, especially in a place where both girls and boys have been allowed to serve, has “a lot of explaining to do.”

So I’ve been mulling it over how best to explain this to those who ask (and some have asked). Two things I come up against: 1) There is no word of Scripture that I can think of that would prohibit the use of females in that capacity, and 2) The tradition of most of our congregations has been to allow both males and females to serve as acolytes.

Given the lack of a definite sedes doctrina for female acolytes, the issue is usually thrown quickly into the adiaphora basket. However, the fact that something is an adiaphoron, if it is truly such, does not necessarily mean that we must do it. What it means is that the Church is free in this regard to do what seems best.

Furthermore, in matters where Scripture is silent our Confessions do give to pastors some freedom in making ordinances, so long as they do not make such things binding on consciences or teach that we are justified by them. The issue of who may serve as an acolyte, I believe, would fall into the realm of pastoral privilege. In other words, if the pastor’s preference is not to use female acolytes, then so be it.

In a recent newsletter article for our church, I explained what our acolytes do: they are liturgical assistants to the pastor, doing much more than lighting candles. They are also crucifers and torch bearers. They assist by collecting the Offering plates and taking them into the chancel. They collect the empty individual glasses from the elderly in the back of the Church when we take Communion to them. They vest in cassock and cotta.

I also explained that this is a good way for us to teach the boys and young men in our church about their role as leaders in the Church. It is a good way to teach them proper decorum and reverence. There are other ways the girls can serve. They are encouraged to shadow the women who care for the altar and prepare Communion. And, as in most congregations, there are many women’s organizations and activities for them to be involved in. I also mentioned the fact that today the Church suffers especially from a lack of male participation, and that this is meant to help curb that deficiency.

But all this aside, is there still a more fundamental reason why the practice of using males only for this role in the Church is ideal? I believe so. There is no question that we live in a time when there is much confusion regarding the roles of men and women in the Church. More and more churches are making it possible for women to have authoritative roles, as well as female pastors. There is a general lack of understanding of what roles are appropriate for women to fill in the church.

So, is it right for us who value male headship and authority, who do not allow women to serve as pastors, or to assist with the conduct of the Service, to allow girls to serve in these minor roles? Isn’t this rather confusing to them? If a girl has assisted in the conduct of the Service, has vested just like the boys, has carried crosses and torches, etc, isn’t she more likely to question when she gets older the practice of a male-only clergy? Isn’t she more likely to ask, “What’s the difference? Why was a girl allowed to do all these other things, but she can’t be a pastor?”

Maybe this is an overreach, but as a parent I know that it is necessary not only to tell my kids how to behave, but also to model that behavior for them. If I tell them not to do something, but go ahead and do it myself, that sets a bad example for them, and essentially confuses them. Why is it okay for Dad to do it, but not me? So also, I think that we almost become guilty of leading young women into temptation when we give them these roles. We tempt them by enticement, like leading a young child in front of a candy shop, even letting them taste the candy, but then saying, “You can’t have any.”

In this case, we let the young women get a “taste” of what it is like to assist in the Conduct of a Divine Service, but then we say, “You can’t do that” when it comes to being pastors. Not only is this unloving, but it creates problems later on down the road. If, however, from their childhood, they have learned to see only men leading the Service, and young men assisting with the Service, won’t they be less likely to be among those who question the propriety of a male-only clergy?

One could, I suppose, take the position that it doesn’t really matter who lights candles if this is done apart from the Service. We usually have ours lit 5-10 minutes before the opening hymn, and the boys extinguish the candles after the closing hymn. When I don’t have acolytes present, either I light them or an usher does (and our ushers are all men—go figure).

As a compromise, so as not to cause too much offense, I suppose a pastor could allow girls the opportunity to light candles before the Service and to extinguish them afterward, while reserving the roles of crucifer and torch bearer for males only since these take place during the Service. In this case, however, I wouldn’t have the girls vest, or remain up front after wards. I would just have them light the candles and go back to sit with their families.

In either case, I think that the real issue at hand is what is being taught and conveyed to the young people and the rest of the congregation. It would seem that with all of the confusion over the roles of men and women in the Church today, we might do well to listen to the words of the apostle: “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.”

If something is truly a matter of Christian freedom, then the rule should apply both ways. If the Church is free to use male and female acolytes, both lighting candles and assisting the pastor in the liturgy, then we should also be free not to do it. Too often, however, the opposite is true. People think that if we are free to do something then we must do it. St. Paul’s words above would not allow such thinking though.

21 comments:

Fr. Jay Watson said...

Scripture is silent as to whether spider monkeys from Costa Rica dressed in tutus can be acolytes...so I use them...
okay, seriously, you have correctly analyzed and articulated the reason why young men should be doing this service. I totally agree with your reasons and have used them myself (not as articutely and not as successful). Spot on Father B! Kudos

Fr. Jay Watson said...

articulately
mea culpa

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

"If a girl has assisted in the conduct of the Service, has vested just like the boys, has carried crosses and torches, etc, isn’t she more likely to question when she gets older the practice of a male-only clergy?"

I don't think it is as likely, or perhaps as dire as you put this. Yes, we who love Church history know that in the early church you had acolytes who were considered minor orders of clergy... but I don't think there is that strong connection of "acolyte" to "clergy."

At my congregation, it's a tie of "acolyte" to "confirmation student" -- because that's who acolytes. I'm guessing in most places it is tied to this, or to a specific age... not tied to "pastor-ness".

So, while I certainly have no issue with having male only acolytes... I am... indifferent. I don't see the logical jump to be as forceful... and of course, the proper response to questions of female clergy will deal with scripture and vocation.

Rev. Larry Beane said...

I think Paul has hit it out of the park. The "The Bible Doesn't Say We Can't Do It" argument is a red herring - as Jay points out regarding spider monkeys. Just as the Bible does not prohibit placing Iron Maiden tour shirts on the altar does not imply license.

There are always unintended consequences to deviating from the church's tradition. The argument is often "girls can light candles" or "nobody makes the connection these days with minor orders of clergy" therefore it is seen as not simply permissible, but sometimes the very opposite - and there is something wrong with you if you don't let Megan and Sallie Ann wear vestments and assist the clergy (you Neanderthals!).

One thing that does convey acceptance of female clergy is the powerful nonverbal symbol of girls wearing masculine ecclesiastical vestments. In my vicarage parish, for example, there were a lot of parishioners who were pro-women's ordination. We not only had vested girl acolytes, but even adult women vested in albs and cinctures. The pastor's wife would often vest with the pastor, and emerge from the vestry in alb and cincture, process side-by-side with the pastor up the aisle, sit inside the chancel, and assist with distribution. Vested women and girls would often hold the Gospel book and read the non-Gospel lessons.

The Bible does not prohibit lay people of either sex performing these duties; they are all, therefore, adiaphora.

But unisexing clerical vestments is a BAD IDEA. It is already not an easy thing to get young self-conscious boys to wear a white "dress" (incidentally just like Megan and Sallie Ann) and do the same job as Megan and Sallie Ann.

What is wrong with having a "gender barrier" and confessing in word and deed that the ministry is masculine, that albs are masculine, that cinctures are masculine, that processing in with the pastor, praying in the sacristy before the service, and performing liturgical (yes, priestly!) service at the altar is masculine?

What do we benefit by having Megan and Sallie Ann wearing albs and cinctures and performing liturgical duties side by side with the pastor who is also wearing an alb and cincture? And what is the downside of this?

For centuries the church has used this as a means to introduce young men to the possibility of pastoral service - just like Boy Scouts introduces young men to the possibility of military service. Not all will, but many who do will cite their early experiences as formative. Older RC priests, for example, will often explain that they were altar boys. Of course, the RC church is now in the throes of a clergy shortage, and of a drumbeat to ordain women. They have blurred the line by emasculating ministerial duties just as we have emasculated the alb (which is actually a eucharistic clerical vestment) and turned it into a unisex church dress for men, women, boys, and girls.

There are many opportunities for girls to serve. Let's be clear in our confession and stop allowing the egalitarian culture to call the shots in our chancels.

Unknown said...

Let me see ... I inherited a congregation with masons, open communion, heretical hymns, female readers, and more and you guys are struggling with female acolytes. Man, I wish I had your problems.

Rev. Larry Beane said...

Why do you assume this is the only problem that these guys have had? That's really insulting. My congregation never had female acolytes, but the things that my congregation has had to deal with would drop your jaw to the ground. Every congregation has its crosses. Don't assume you are the only one dealing with the problems you have just listed, Pastor Unknown. Why not take off the mask and join the discussion?

Eleanor said...

While I couldn't agree more with the sentiment (that girls ought not acolyte), I would like to share reflections as a girl who would very much like to have acolyted (had it been an option). I want to flag a problem this post sidestepped.

At my church growing up, no one helped the pastor with the service. There were no readers, deacons or acolytes. The usher did the candles and he didn't vest. Men were ushers, but let's be honest, that doesn't look all that interesting when you are ten. And the ushers were all adults. It wasn't like they were tapping your brothers and not you. So, I wasn't offended, and I never once wanted to be a pastor. But being an acolyte in an old school high liturgy looked fun. Where I grew up, no one got to do the fun ritual so there was no offense, but it did look like a lot of fun.(In retrospect, I'm glad it wasn't an option to acolyte. As I said, I buy your reason, but I've got serious advanced history study behind me.)

Girls, especially precocious, cheerful, godly ones like to be helpful. And in liturgical congregations, they can help their moms, but that's not all that interesting. Little girls like to feel that their contribution matters. And when the boys get to wear the fun clothes and really help with the service, they feel shortchanged. They see that the church has important and necessary roles, but they won't get a real role until they are a mom in their own right. The single ladies need something to do: and they need something to do whether they are are 10 or 30. I know girls in that category (my current congregation has acolytes), and I'm pretty sure I would have felt the same way.

Yes, pastors, this is a problem. When the little boys really get to DO something, and the little girls just get to "shadow their mothers" "shadow the altar guild" or be generically helpful, doing whatever, they feel useless. And that's no fun. Nor is it appropriate. Basically, it's like telling the kids: we're doing a play. The adults get the big parts, the little boys get the little parts. And the little girls can be the understudies. If something bad happens and an adult CAN'T do their part, you can, maybe. I know you are dealing with something infinitely more important than a play. I'm trying to highlight the human cost of your policy. Yes, I have found ways to serve. But I am also an extremely self-starting person. And when I was freshly confirmed and anxious to help in every and any way possible, the women at my church made it clear that they didn't want teenagers helping. We were too much trouble to train and all the jobs were taken. By them.

I would suggest that if you want more support for boy-only-acolytes, you need to articulate what role the little girls actually have. And that it matters. And that the little boys don't get to do that. I know a Catholic congregation founded a guild for the "Daughters of the BVM" and the girls wear white on Marian feasts and organize things around that. Yeah, that won't work for us, but we need an analogue. Something that's special and appreciated that the girls can do. Something the pastor thanks them for doing.

Again, I don't think girls have any business acolyting, but we should recognize that women's guilds are not what they used to be. And the void leaves the little girls feeling like unappreciated appendages.

Rev. Larry Beane said...

Before my time at my congregation, I was told about a lady who remarked: "They only let the women do the dirty work around here" - meaning altar guild.

Dirty work.

I think this is part of the problem. Some women themselves don't realize what a high and holy honor it is to handle the holy vessels, to stand in the train of the Marys that first Easter morning to attend to the body of the Lord. We need to look to the church's history for discernment.

If little girls and their mothers are offended that they don't get to "play dress up" for the Sunday Show, that it's not fair that the boys get to do it, etc., then we pastors and parents need to do a better job of explaining what the Divine Service is, the value in both sexes being submissive to God's Word and to serving their neighbor in love (rather than looking for fun stuff to do), and the great honor it is to serve the Lord as men and women, as clergy and laity, in whatever vocation we are called.

This "it's not fair that the girls don't get to wear vestments" attitude is precisely why we have modern "churches" that "ordain" women.

It is a sad and grievous thing that so many people in our church are inwardly focused on such perceptions that the other sex gets to do the "fun stuff" rather than focusing on the miracle that we are permitted to behold with our senses and that our sins are being forgiven unto eternal life.

How much better that is than seeing the Divine Service as a play with roles and costumes. I wonder if that is one of the unintended consequences of Vatican II. These days, to find a reverent RC Mass, you often have to go looking to a Tridentine Service - where there is no prancing pastor with a Britney Spears microphone, no female acolytes, no lay readers, no guitars, and no disruptive and anthropocentric "passing of the peace."

I hope we can find a way to find our way. We seem to be so lost that we don't even know that we're lost! Lord, have mercy!

Dcn Latif Haki Gaba SSP said...

I wholeheartedly join the others who have praised Fr. Paul's argument. Yet I would add that, in my view, there is an even more fundamental ratio for male-only acolytes in our churches, schools, campuses, &c., than the negative reasons (as important as they are). For when the Church experienced times of much healthier appreciation of the Church's ministry, of the roles of men & women, etc, and therefore less need, theoretically, to be on guard against the dangers to which co-ed acolytes can lead, the Church still somehow knew that there is compelling reason enough for keeping to boys only for this area of liturgical service.

I am not moved much by arguments of function, not even the expanded lists some parishes (eg., Fr. Beisel's) can produce. For on the one hand, as LC-MS bureaucrats will be quick to remind you, none of what is on your list touches the actual execution of the Ministry; and on the other hand, even the "mere" lighting of the candles is best left to boys who are 1. trained in the reverent performance of this duty, and 2. dressed in clean dress shoes, dark socks, cassock & cotta; and if a pastor has no such boys, he should leave it to his deacon; and if he has no deacon, he should do it himself.

Why? For this fundamental reason: when & where the Church needs & desires people to fill such a visible, active, liturgical role, such a role should be filled by those for whom visible prominence is in keeping with their calling, namely, men and boys. And even in the most healthy cultures, it is simply not in keeping with the modesty to which our women and girls are called, nor with the gentle, unassuming, sort of beauty, which is theirs and toward which we encourage them to grow, to take on such a visibly prominent role in the assembly.

There is not a church anywhere, unless someone can correct me, that has simultaneously a culture of women dressing modestly and wearing mantillas, on the one hand, and girl acolytes, on the other. And I suggest that is not an accident, but goes to show that the feminine modesty exemplified in the former is contradicted in the latter.

Rev. Paul L. Beisel said...

Thanks for your comments. Eleanor, I appreciate your post. Your point is well taken.

One thing I will add is that I'm not sure why people feel they must have something to do in the Church. The role of the Bride is to receive what the Bridegroom gives. And then, to respond in praise and thanksgiving.

Why is it not enough simply to be in the Divine Service, participating in the ceremony of the laity? Why is it not enough simply to hear God's voice and to receive his gifts? Why must we be doing something else?

I believe the answer lies in the story of Mary and Martha. Mary was content to sit at the feet of Jesus, listening to his voice. She didn't need to be serving at that moment. Martha, on the other hand, was "busy with much serving." At that point, she ought to have been with Mary.

But here you see the role confusion that we have in our culture. How often today do men try to do something for a woman, like open a door for her as she comes out of a store, and she goes to the other door to open it. She can't stand to let the man serve her. She cannot bear to let herself be cared for, served, and loved.

Christ came "not to be served, but to serve..."

Rebekah said...

On of my husband's two parishes has both boys and girls vest to light the candles. When our oldest daughter achieved the sole prerequisite for this activity (age) and the scheduler contacted me, I said she would be apprenticed to the Altar Guild instead. If anyone cares, I haven't heard about it. The only person who seems to have noticed is our previously one-woman Altar Guild, who has been very grateful for the help. My big girl has learned lots from and given lots of time to this responsibility.

Our next kid happens to be a boy who happens to light candles. He is also a formal altar server at our smaller church. Again, a healthy lack of care is shown all around.

Non-candle-lighting and very real Altar Guild service notwithstanding, our daughter also contributes hugely to services here by working hard on developing the specific skills required for church music. I don't mean to brag on my kid but it does seem worth noting that our congregations were just kept from what would have been a really ugly round of a cappella Christmas services by one member who turned ten that week. She is one of our church's most called-upon lay servants, and she is more knowledgeable about its workings, sacred and mundane, simple and technical, than most. She does not feel excluded. I worry that she might feel too INcluded.

Sharon Braasch said...

As in many other matters of theology & practice in the modern church it takes a great deal of thoughtful & prayerful discourse in order to distill down to the most "edifying" approach especially in relating to an issue that does not have a "thus sayeth the Lord" mandate one way or the other. Isn't that one of the many blessed opportunities that theological blogs such as this provide? However, many if not most typical parishioners aren't on these blogs, nor do many have the "luxury" or motivation to devote much of their own personal time to work through some of these issues. So...just as it takes much study, prayer and thought for a pastor to come to a conclusion in his own mind regarding an issue, the same level of respect is called for in influencing the conclusions of others specifically the parishioners who will be affected by any change. I believe the ideal way to effect a non-conscience binding but more edifying change is to teach thoroughly and patiently enough that the parishioners themselves request the change. As a laywoman at St. Paul, Hamel, I experienced that myself when we came to see the importance of celebrating the Lord's Supper in both services every Sunday.
I see the benefit of male only acolytes and crucifers, I can also see a few practical drawbacks as well. I tend to agree with Rev. Brown that the acolyte connection today relates more to confirmation than the office of the ministry. Whether or not that is an appropriate connection I am willing to be educated on, and I don't believe that there has been a confusion with girls at St. Paul's regarding that expectation either. All this is to say, I and many if not most, faithful parishioners here at St. Paul (and I would hope anywhere) are more than willing to face necessary changes. This is especially true if our pastor is willing to allow time for respectful, patient and loving instruction as to the reasons for a particular change that he thinks needs to be made, being mindful of the concern that will always be there when a particular practice has existed for years. I have no doubt you Pastor Ball are such a pastor and look forward to your faithful instruction. Welcome to St. Paul Pastor, Serena & family.We are so thankful to the Lord for bringing you all to us!
Sharon Braasch

Sharon Braasch said...

My apologies to Pr. Beisel and Pr. Ball, I thought Pr. Ball had posted this post so my response was as if he had posted. Sorry for the confusion. My thoughts are the same either way but would not have been directed towards Pr. Ball had I been more attentive all the way through the post.
Sharon Braasch

Donna said...

I'm a former LCMSer. I'm a woman and I joined the ELCA as an adult partly because of the murkiness in the LCMS around issues like this. In my LCMS congregation I was everything from Sunday School
teacher to Church Council member.
Like most LCMS congregations, we had a male only Board of Elders and
the position of President was reserved for men. I could not officially hand out Communion, but I could serve as a lector, visitor of the sick, Bible Class teacher, and lead devotions at Council meetings.
As it turned out, I could also do the work of any Elder or the President so long as my name wasn't officially on the paper.
If a male member of the Board of Elders or the Congregational President didn't do their job, I (or other women) could do the work and then let them take the credit.
Because of this, whenever anyone preached about men having leadership roles in the congregation I, along with many, would just roll our eyes and smile because we knew that nobody cared who did the work, so long as it got done with a man's name in the minutes.
Women can visit the sick, teach Bible Class, run Council meetings, and do pretty much anything else if a man didn't want to. It was very clear to me that nobody thought women shouldn't hold positions of authority. They only thought it was important that they look like they don't for the sake of tradition.
If the congregation is serious in it's belief that women are not to have authority or act as pastors, then I think they should be very clear in that. No wishy-washiness. No 'Do as I say but not as I do.'
I don't think that allowing female acolytes equates to (or causes) the muddying of the LCMS stance on gender roles, but I do think it should be considered more carefully than "Well, we need the candles lit." Believe me, people watch this issue and take it as a bellwether. Brushing it off could backfire big time- so kudos, IMHO, for even discussing this.
It may seem like a small issue, but the larger question is, "Why on earth should I care about anything the church says about the Divine Service if bits and pieces of it can be disregarded at will? Why should I be called out for having a utilitarian view of the Divine Service if your actions show that you do as well?"

Donna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I would love not to be "Pastor Unknown," but it is not clear to me how to do that. It took me three or four tries to get past the goofy security letters. How do I go about making myself known?

The characters you entered didn't match the word verification. Please try again.

Rev. Larry Beane said...

Dear Pr. Unknown:

You could simply say who you are. Like this: "My name is Rev. Larry Beane, and I approve this message."

Only use your real name, not mine. :-)

Eleanor said...

To answer your question Fr. Beisel, there is no need to do anything at all in the DS beyond receive. And except on days when I'm singing in the choir, that's all I am doing. And I'm very happy with that. But, fact is, we like a lot more than the bare minimum for our DS. We like to have a deacon, an organist, a cantor, an acolyte, and sometimes a crucifer and torchbearers. These are ornaments. But we like them, and we appreciate them. And we appreciate the people who ornament the service in these ways.

And the thing about people who do receive the gifts of God with gratitude (as the Bride of Christ), is that after receiving we WANT to serve. The bride receives with joy from the bridegroom, but then she serves him, not of obligation, but with joy. And lacking good outlets for that godly desire, people and especially hyper-active types (and, I am a hyper-active type, I tend to be a Martha, I'll be the first person to tell you that) turn our attention to areas we aren't really doing any good at all. We get busy, not helpful, busy. Girls left without an outlet to serve helpfully try to crowd out the boys. We can tell them not to crowd the boys or we can give them their own club and solicit their services elsewhere.

And the thing is, partly of pride, but partly to know that we actually did something useful (and not just to DO something), people like to be thanked. So what do the little girls see? They see their pastor and parents badgering their brothers to acolyte, because the church NEEDS them. And then, they volunteer to help with altar guild and get told that they don't need help. (Maybe not at your parish, at mine, this happened.) And they volunteer to teach Sunday school and get told they aren't old enough yet. What does this mean? The contributions of boys are solicited and necessary for the church's functioning, or at least appreciated. But their contributions are superfluous. And if they finally do get to help with altar guild, no one ever thanks them for doing it.

I count a few women as my friends who think they are pastors. Why? Because they got it through their heads as children and teenagers that the "Lord's Work" was being a pastor. And they wanted to do the "Lord's Work", so they decided they must be called to be pastors. Basically, they were raised by clericalists, and then, buying the lie, they decided that being clergy, or as closed to clergy as possible, was what they should do. Not so for me. Because one body, many members means I don't have to insert myself into my brother's job, or my pastor's job.

Again, I am so SO grateful that I grew up in a church where headship and proper order were everywhere. I'm SO glad that my mother recognized my drive and talents and helped me channel them into appropriate directions. But the girls who want to acolyte have energy. And the parents who want their girls to acolyte want them to be excited about serving the church. Please channel that and give them a girls' only club that does something you as the pastor can thank them for. (Altar guild, food function, rest home visits, depending on age and competence.) When I was a tween, that is what I wanted.

Fr. Jay Watson said...

I'm posting this for my good friend Kent, who can't satisfy the security protocols - Fr Jay Watson

What a great and useful discussion! We had female acolytes here when I first came, but shortly thereafter, a very pious Episcopalian lady (who loved her church's liturgy and hated its liberalism) went through catechesis and joined our congregation. She remembered painfully well the progression from female acolytes to female ordained deacons, and then presbyters, and now bishops. It was for her a "camel's nose in the tent" sort of issue. It's not that I didn't think we could hold the line at female acolytes. We could. Many do. But I went to our junior confirmation classes and said, "Confirmation isn't just instruction in the doctrines of the church. It is teaching you the church's culture, and preparing you to participate in the life of the church. As adults, we will ask men to assist as ushers, and at the altar during the divine service. We will ask men to do altar guild things . not just setting up the altar, but also making banners and other adornments for the church. I have here a former Episcopalian lady who is very artistically gifted and knows her way around the liturgy and what's the "right" way to do things. She has volunteered to start a "Jr. Altar Guild" for you young ladies, while you young men will be expected to serve as acolytes."Everyone was satisfied with that. The girls weren't told they were "unimportant" or "didn't matter" or "were only to do the 'dirty' work." They got to help make banners! And they didn't have to be up in front of 'all those people' . . . and most were very happy about that! As alluded to earlier, adiaphora are things "neither commanded nor forbidden." But that's not the same as saying "matters of indifference." It is neither commanded nor forbidden that I wear vestments, or that I pick my nose when I preach. But clearly (forgive the crassness of the illustration) some adiaphora serve the Gospel better than others. In this matter also, I think service to the Gospel involves preparing children to serve in ways similar to what we will ask of them as adults.
Fr. Kent A. Heimbigner

Pastor Peters said...

FWIW this is not a high issue on my list. I think I prefer male acolytes but since we have no abundance of males and many services to cover, I am not sure how it might work. That said, I do not think acolytes or the congregation see this service in a priestly context but more in line with a catechism duty. We use cassock and cotta (not exclusively priestly garb since these are also used by choir). All in all the one thing I note most of all is how confusion has reigned as the practices of the Synod have become so very diverse. Most contemporary worship settings use no acolytes and the service is largely unknown to their youth of both sexes. What is also interesting is that a shortage of youth of either sex for this role seems rather uniform. We have three each Sunday at each service and one at the mid-week services. Because of the larger number of services and the corresponding smaller number of youth available, we extend the service to an older age than most (well into high school) and this has provided the most salutary benefit of acolytes with stature, maturity, and piety demonstrating what some of our more youthful folk are learning. So this brings up another question. In addition to a choice between male or female acolytes, another issue is the age -- younger or older (or both)?

Joanne said...

What is the Lutheran rite for the churching of a mother and the presentation of her baby on the fortieth day of her uncleanness after giving birth? Do you know, have you ever used it? Do you present male babies differently than you present female babies? If I go to your churches will I hear the voice of women, and will I see female heads covered to emphasize that she is not the head.

Do you dismiss, ita, dismissus est, the catecumens when you go from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Sacrament? Do you have a sacristan whose purview is the altar. The prediger/preacher does not get involved in altar prep stuff, the sacristan/sexton does it.

I think you could use male catecumens to do service in the service of the Word, but even then, we should not be using "new learners" at the altar. The day after confirmation, the newly confirmed males will meet with the sacristan and the older altar crew, and be welcomed to altar service in both Word and Sacrament liturgies. The altar crew should be in the middle or late teens. No little toddlers walking around with electric light torches (at every Roman church everywhere).

A Christian woman is happy to do everthing she can to show that she is not the head. And, if you have nothing to do, I'm sure your churche's lay deconess program could keep you busy actually performing mercy all over your neighborhood, 24 hours a day. You know there is no limit to the needs of your neighbors and you are called to do mercy to all you see who need it. And, unlike the males, you don't have any sacredotal duties to get in the way, though serving your personal head in your husband, and running a household is no slouch job either and as Luther would say, a vocation you have and as holy as any other calling. You are called to be a toe, but some with that toe calling really want to be knees, so they are dissatisfied. You have the calling to grow new life and give it birth and to maintain it. I can't think of another calling more important. Men may be dissatisfied about that, but it will only frustrate them. Is your fussing about not having enough to do, really mean that you didn't have enough children, you still have plenty of energy, that's for another child, not for serving at the altar.

When you get home, ask your husband or other male relative about this. You can attend the church meetings, you just may not speak in them.

He who is unfaithful in a little, will be unfaithful in much. Mama teaches her daughter how to cover her head in church service. Mantillas are stunningly beautiful, and I saw it used in my local Lutheran church. But, no church still practices this, not Lutherans, not Romans, and not Orthodox, except in monestary churches, where a dress/skirt are also necessary along with the scarf that covers all but the face in the way it is worn. And it is not uncommon historically to separate the males and females during the Devine Service. At Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, the women attended services standing in the galleries only. Wendish Lutherans in Texas had the men in the galleries.

Hindu women, especially middle-class and well married, observe purdah. They never leave the house, and never meet a strange man without their faces totally covered. And, where did the women sit in Synagogues? No where, it was men only. And they could only attend the women's court in the Jerusalem temple.

And, just this morning you were praying that Jesus would give you more humility. Don't worry, the church has organized itself to help you have plenty of humility. More is expected of the men along with ugly consequences if they shirk their sacredotal duties. You don't want to go anywhere near that.