Etiquette for Altar Servers in the Lutheran Church

Altar servers help in Lutheran churches across the country.
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The Lutheran Church is named after Martin Luther, a former Catholic who separated from Catholic teachings during the 1500s. The modern Lutheran Church still embraces the theology and teachings of Martin Luther. One of the customs in Lutheran churches is to use altar servers, usually called acolytes, during worship services. Acolytes support the pastors in helping church services run smoothly and appropriately, and they are expected to behave in certain ways while performing their assigned duties.

1 Function of Altar Servers

Altar servers are usually middle school- or high school-age children who assist with certain duties in the Lutheran church. Before the service begins, the altar servers light the candles sitting on the altar and other places in the front of the church. During the service, altar servers have various duties, including assisting the pastor with communion by picking up empty glasses or by holding banners during a baptism. During the service, acolytes are often asked to hand the ushers the collection plates, as well. After a Lutheran service is over, altar servers extinguish the candles.

2 Before Services

Altar servers are expected to arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes before the church service begins. The first duty of most acolytes is to place a church service bulletin on the acolyte chair or bench. Before lighting the candles on the altar, acolytes don a white robe, called an alb, that's cinched with a rope, called a cincture. Many churches recommend that altar servers use the restroom before putting on their alb. Although many Lutheran churches require that the acolytes' clothes be completely hidden by the alb, which means that only their shoes should show, altar servers should wear church-appropriate clothes and shoes under their alb. Their hair should be tidy, as well. Just before the service begins, often when the pre-service music starts, the altar server lights the candles and takes his place in front of the church.

3 During Services

Altar servers are expected to sit quietly throughout the service. Because Lutheran acolytes sit in the front of the church, they should follow along by reciting and singing along with the congregation and pastor. Altar servers are asked to remain in their seats during the service and to avoid doing other things, such as reading the church newsletter or doodling. Altar servers should never chew gum or eat during the service either. When the altar servers approach the altar to assist with communion or offering, they should bow toward the altar or make the sign of the cross over their chest. Acolytes should walk slowly with their heads up and their shoulders back. This shows that the altar server takes his job seriously and respects the house of God.

4 After Services

When the last verse of the final song is being sung, the acolyte extinguishes the candles in the front of the church. Once the service is over, the altar server must hang his alb and cincture up in the sacristy, which is the room off the side of the altar in most Lutheran churches. The acolyte should also return the candle lighting and extinguishing materials to the sacristy, and make sure they're put away neatly.

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.