. . . the people of God came together to celebrate an important ministry in the church.
by The Rev. Debra Bennett
"If God is the center of your life, no words are necessary. Your mere presence will touch hearts." Vincent de Paul was right. Hearts were touched on Saturday May 21, 2011 as the sun shone brightly and as those assembled on the grounds of the Cathedral of the Incarnation were enraptured as over 300 acolytes from 36 parishes across the diocese of Long Island gathered for the first diocesan acolyte festival under the auspices of Youth Ministries.
To the beat of the drum, the flying of Jubilation streamers, and banners held high acolytes dressed in myriad colors, some in gloves, some with crosses, some with torches and some with thuribles, the young, the not so young, and the young at heart processed across the campus to the Cathedral. The columns entered the Cathedral to the tune of We Are Marching in the Light of God. They streamed down the side aisles and the center aisles as the Cathedral Choir of boys and girls sang in full voice along with the gathered congregation.
Who would've imagined that on a Saturday in late May, over 250 young people would be found seated at a church service?! And yet here they were: singing, serving as lectors, readers of the prayers of the people, and Eucharistic ministers. In their demeanor they personified the charge that Bishop Provenzano gave to them during his sermon that they should embody what it means to be a follower of the Cross not only on Sundays but at school and at home. Bishop Provenzano talked to the acolytes and to everyone else about what it means to be an acolyte and how that should be lived out.
It was a glorious day! Not only because the sun was shining after a week of rain, not only because of the number of acolytes present, but because the people of God came together to celebrate an important ministry in the church. The excitement was infectious. Parishioners from various congregations picnicked on the lawn, new friendships formed around the tables in Cathedral House and under the tent as a meal was shared, and laughter just permeated the air.
"Where is the devil's window?" "Where is the Bishop?": the two most important questions of the day one would surmise as a number of young people traversing the campus on a scavenger hunt queried any one they thought might have the answer. The scavenger hunt and adventure challenge course were two of the eight workshops that required working together to accomplish a particular goal. Emily Walker from St. Jude's in Wantagh could not contain her glee as she commented, "I really had a great time during the adventure challenge course. It was so much fun!" The course was led by new Camp DeWolfe directors Matt and Emma Tees. But the excitement didn't end there. A number of the young people who attended the jubilation streamers workshop joyfully waved the mini-streamers they made during their time together. Others commented on their surprise and delight at the work-out received in the dance workshop. Rebeckah Severe from St Joseph's in Queens Village was one such person who remarked, "they actually worked up a sweat!" Not to be outdone was the drumming workshop, in which those gathered were able to play a tune as one. "They sounded really good, as though they'd been playing together for a long time," a passerby mentioned. "I liked the drumming workshop. It was fun," said Khasan Edwards from St. Paul's in Roosevelt.
As everyone returned to the Cathedral for the closing, the group of acolytes from St. Luke and St. Matthew collectively shared how much they enjoyed the day, "especially meeting new people." Another group from St. James the Less were hoping they could retrieve the "Ask Me" buttons worn by members of the committee, as souvenirs. The day ended with an opportunity for sharing what the participants enjoyed the most, closing remarks, and the benediction given by Bishop Provenzano. The altar party recessed to the beat of the drums led by Mr. Courtney Bennett, the African Drum workshop facilitator, and by some of those who participated in the workshop. "This was a beautiful day of celebration and worship! I look forward to the Acolyte Festival growing in future years," cheerfully remarked Myra Garnes Shuler, Diocesan Director of Youth Ministry and Christian Formation.
Indeed "hearts were touched" this day by the "mere presence" of those acolytes and all who came to support and encourage them but mostly to witness to the presence of Christ in this gathered community in the Dominion in the Sea.
Special thanks to The Rev. Debra Bennett for sharing this report on the Acolyte Festival.