In our household, we talk about a favorite kind of exercise: jumping to conclusions. Who among us doesn't slip into this very human habit? During Easter weekend, I heard a few of these "jumps" in the form of criticism. It was a big weekend with 452 in attendance for the Great Vigil and Easter morning, and our services went splendidly -- so blessedly well that focusing on small bloopers doesn't appeal to me. Were the liturgies perfect? No. We're humans.
HC (Habitual Critic): "The lectors don't know what they are doing. Someone needs to train them."
RS (Real Story): Today's lector DID in fact attend a recent lector training, but he messed up in a minor way last time, and was therefore nervous to be scheduled again on Easter morning -- when he made the same small mistake. It's not the case that we don't train, and it's not true that he and others don't care about reading well.
HC: The acolytes don't care about serving anymore.
RS: Acolytes sometimes serve because a parent forces them to do so, and this seems to me a direct path to helping a young person hate church. When I see this, I encourage the parent to let the young person take a break -- or even stop serving. Many of the younger members would love to be at the earlier, more informal service now, alongside their peers.
On the other hand, a few acolytes just love to serve, and one of them served at yesterday's baptism. After talking through the choreography with everyone, I said to E, the acolyte: "When it's time for me to take the baby from her mom, I'm going to hand you my prayer book. Please keep the book opened when I hand it to you."
E takes this all in, and then says: "What if you hand me the baby instead of the prayer book?" Another priest chimes in: "Then you don't drop the baby!"
The baptism proceeds; I hand E my book and take the wide-awake baby. When it's time for me to speak the prayer which immediately follows, I see that E has kept the prayer book opened as I had asked, but she holds it exactly as I gave it to her -- now upside down to my eyes. She gently turns it around and holds it up when asked, and we welcome this marvelous child into the household of God.
Later, I am with E's dad when E says proudly, "Guess what -- I had to hold Raisin's prayer book!" Her job means something to her. Joking in the sacristy does not mean that she's not taking church seriously. Some acolytes do care about what they're doing. Yes, sometimes they mess up. Get over it, people!