Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven. - Matthew 5:16
As a pastor in the local church, one of the things that truly inspires me is the stories of people who both initiate and establish new ministries. I’m talking about people who believe their calling is a “God thing.”
A couple of years ago, we as a church were struggling with our acolyte program. Oh, we had acolytes on Sunday mornings, but we were just grabbing whoever was standing in the narthex and proclaiming, “Guess what? You are the acolyte today.” Inevitably, the same six or eight people were acolyting every week in both services.
Enter Marc Swicegood.
The church ran a note in the bulletin to ask if anyone was interested in taking on the organization and planning of the acolyte program as their ministry. Marc waited intentionally a few weeks to see if God was calling someone else. When no one responded, he answered the call. Marc jumped in with an amazing amount of passion and energy. He set up several training sessions and then began the “recruiting” phase of his new ministry. Marc took it upon himself to call, call, and call practically everyone in the church and invite him or her to be part of the acolyte program.
Within a matter of a few weeks, we were seeing fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, long-time members and new members, and the young and the old coming down the center aisle to light the candles; thus, beginning our worship. On Veteran’s Day, Marc invited four of our military personnel dressed in uniform to be the acolytes for the day. It was a very touching and memorable scene, and proof that Marc puts much thought and prayer into selecting the acolytes.
Marc sends cards through the mail and places phone reminders each week. He also comes by the church on a regular basis to check on the tapers, wicks, and lighters.
Marc shared with me one day the reason he is so passionate about this ministry. When he was a young boy growing up in the church, his pastor at the time talked to him about the lighted candles representing the presence of Christ. When the light is taken out of the sanctuary, it represents our taking the light of Christ out to a dark world. That message hit home with that young boy, and in a day in which many see this act of worship as a small routine and a mere formality, Marc still sees and believes in the power and presence of this time- honored act of worship.
A few months ago, we recognized Marc in the worship services for his great work within the acolyte program. As a visual way of seeing the fruits of Marc’s efforts, I asked everyone who had acolyted in the past year to please stand. Wow! About eighty percent of the congregation stood up.
Afterward, Marc said to me, “Preacher, I wish you had asked all of those who had NOT acolyted to stand up. I would have quickly written down their names.”
I would venture to say that if we take the same visual survey next year, there will be no one sitting in the pews. Thanks be to God for all of the Marcs out there!
Rev. Randy Foster is pastor of Tyro United Methodist Church in Lexington, N.C., one of Thriving Rural Communities’ partner churches.