When my daughter became a teenager, she was invited to serve as an acolyte at our Episcopal church. I thought it would be a wonderful thing to do with her. With her permission, I became an acolyte too—in my mid-forties.
My daughter has since left for college, but I’m still an acolyte. In fact, it’s hard to name a practice of church service I’ve enjoyed more. My priest has said, “All acolytes are pyromaniacs,” and it is true that acolytes get to play with fire. There are the candles, of course. But even more pleasing are the duties of the thurifer, the acolyte who bears the container (the thurible) of burning incense. I like to see billows of smoke issuing forth as the priest (and then the thurifer) swing the thurible. There should be an abundant smell and quite visible clouds wafting toward heaven. So I take pains to make red hot the coal that will set the incense fogging.