Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Naked Acolytes

Well not entirely.

We have a rota of acolytes who light the worship candles at the opening of worship. There is also a rota of acolyte parents who are supposed to make sure the kids are robed, the lighters properly wicked, etc. before the service begins.

This past Sunday, the two acolytes were 13 year old girls who are long time veterans of acolyte duty. Given that the girls are old pros, the parent in charge decided the girls could handle things on their own. They certainly did. They made the unilateral, last minute decision that they would not wear their robes. This would not have been sooo bad, except that both of them were wearing the shortest possible skirts that one could still call skirts not handkercheifs. And since acolyte duty here involves reaching up to light the taller candles---well, I'll let your imaginations work on that one for a while.

In working through how this happened, I encountered an attitude that seems to run rampant these days--even in my own family sometimes. It goes like this, "I want my kids to come to church. They don't really like church very much, so please don't make this harder for me by requiring anything that might make church more irksome for them than it already is. " Like asking them to dress appropriately.

In my last church, I made one kid go across the street to his Aunt's house and change when he showed up in a Hooters shirt. Don't think I could do that here for a variety of reasons.

Have you run into this attitude? How have you handled it?


PPB said...

Well, as a college chaplain, thisis what I do. It might work with younger kids.

a)I have a variety of plain white button down shirts in my office. I say that I keep them there for spills. I really keep them there for the Hooters T shirts that show up the day the Hooters wearer's parents make a suprise visit. Or the photographers. I don't make them change, but I offer it as an option. Everybody knows they are there. They check each other, and generally ask for one. They always say it's a spill, or they are too cold. And I'm cool with playing that game.

b)with the non-existant skirts, I talk with the young women ahead of time about the skirt situation, and about how skirts that are totally appropriate for class or socializing might not work when you're doing x in front of a group. (The same with low cut blouses that look totally different from the balcony.) Again, they kind of check each other on it. One year, for some reason there was a joke about "Do it for Grandma." Whatever. I just try to play it really cool about how the skirts are totally fine at groundlevel, but just might not work for this situation. They get it. But they are college kids. (And of course, their classmates who are not leading worship are wearing tissue paper skirts and bikini tops.

Rev Kim said...

I haven't run into this one yet. At my home church, however, the problem was intensified by the fact that the youth director, who was incredibly gifted with the youth, herself wore things that were questionable.

I remember when one of the youth was lay-reading, she showed up in tight white capris, skimpy tank top and high heels. The sr. pastor made her wear a choir robe while reading. She pouted about it and tried to get him to change his mind - "I chose to wear this outfit specifically because I was going to be reading today!" - (huh?) - but he stood his ground and she wore a choir robe while reading.

I also remember that when it came confirmation time, one of the saints, a kindly, elderly gentlemen spent alot of time with the confirmation kids preparing them for reading their professions of faith in front of the congregation. One of his pet peeves was the way the youth dressed for worship. Without nagging them, he gently expressed the importance of dressing appropriately as a way of expressing themselves. He made it clear that there wasn't a mandatory dress code. Whatever he said, it worked. Every young man wore a shirt and tie and every young woman's skirt or dress was knee-length. Guess I should find out how he did that!

Presbyterian Gal said...

Oh, for goodness sakes!! Why can't you just say "You know, Jesus already knows what your hootchie coo looks like, but do you really want to be flashing it in front of all those old men sittin' out there?" And if they say "yes" then they are NOT acolyte material.

cheesehead said...

Tee hee, PG!

On a more serious note, even though we don't have acolytes (too 'uptown' for St Stoic) the real problem here, as you've identified, is the attitude of the adults.

We bend over backwards here trying to convince kids that "Church Doesn't Suck". The only reason we have to do that is that they've been getting the message for umpteen years that church does, indeed, suck. That message is inherent in the "doesn't suck" one.

(It requires you to cover your privates for an hour on Sunday. Boo hoo.)

In short I don't have a practical solution, but I can echo the need for the attitude adjustment.

Mark Smith said...

While I agree that appropriate attire is important for people involved in the service, I have to take exception with Cheesehead's remark.

Why does church have to "suck" for kids? What are they looking for? Can we accomodate them and remain faithful (note, faithful does not necessarily equal traditional)?

Taking a "this is how church is, suck it up and deal with it" attitude is just an invitation for those kids to depart at the earliest possible opportunity.

And if recent history is any indicator, most of them won't be coming back.

Teri said...

I agree that parents are the attitude. I don't think church does or should "suck" for youth...but often adults assume that kids don't like church, so they perpetuate the problem. Sometimes they are projecting their own teen memories of boring church, sometimes they are making assumptions about their kids, sometimes church really is less than inspiring--but the fact remains that if the parents acted as if they enjoyed it and if their expectation (and example) involved not just attendance but participation, it would be better. I'm feeling this right now.

RE clothes...this Sunday is confirmation and I told the kids to think about the people who go to church here, then think about those people having to look at them for a long time this Sunday, and to wear something they'll feel comfortable having our church members look them up and down in. With 20 confirmands, they're going to be standing/kneeling there for a while. There's plenty of time for gawking by older church members!

I may be back reporting on their outfits Monday morning....

PPB said...

I went to this oddball church where the tradition was to wear a long dress for confirmation. I don't know why. But at least no hootchie-coo flashing.

Connie+ said...

Yea, I think I may say something about worship leaders really need to be wearing something more modest. But I'm blunt like that.

I'm also a chicken. At my last church there was a new woman to the whole church thing and we really wanted her to have a place. Problem was she had an entire wardrobe that looked as if it worked downtown at night...on the street corners.

Giving her communion while she was kneeling at the rail was uncomfortable for me and a source of titalation (oh, sorry) for male visiting clergy.

Problem was she had a temper and a mouth like she worked downtown at night...on a street corner and I never got around to saying anything. I later lived to regret that decision when scandal broke out.

Elaine said...

I just can't imagine that those girls' mothers aren't getting enough instruction in parenting from, oh, everyone they know over the age of 40 in the entire church; for you to need to do or say anything.

Norman, OK

cheesehead said...

Mark: I think I didn't express myself well. What I mean to say is that in our attempt to let kids know that "church doesn't suck" we are covering up our own ambivalence with what it means to be a disciple.

So much of what happens in the name of youth ministry where I serve is meant to hearken back to the "good old days", without ever seriously addressing how culture has changed in the last 30 years.

Serena said...

I've served on staff in similar situation. Sr. Pastor, wisely in my opinion, left it to session to handle, via worship committee et al.