Altar server

From Academic Kids

An altar server is a lay assistant to a member of the clergy during a religious service. Altar servers attend to supporting tasks at the altar such as fetching and carrying, ringing a bell etc. An altar server usually has no formal training and holds no formal religious position.

Roman Catholic altar servers

In the Roman Catholic Church, altar servers help the priest and deacon during the liturgy, especially the Mass. They have several supporting duties to carry out, such as carrying the processional cross and candles, carry the incense and thurible, holding the missal for the priest celebrant when he is not at the altar, assisting the priest when he receives the gifts from the people, washing the hands of the priest before the prayer over the gifts, removing items from the altar during communion, and assisting the priest celebrant and the deacon as necessary. Altar servers wear the alb or the surplice during a liturgy.

In most ordinary situations, one altar server is usually all that is required, however many parishes prefer to have two or more altar servers. In solemn services - especially ones where a higher ranking member of the clergy, such as a Bishop is present - there will often be more than two servers. In situations where a Bishop is present, there will often be two dedicated servers who will help him with his miter and crosier.

Altar boys are young male altar servers. Formerly, only young men, whom the Church wanted to recruit for the priesthood, and seminarians, who needed the training, were altar servers, and so altar boy was the term for all servers. Reasons why the phrase altar boy have ceased to be standard is that recently girls have been allowed to serve in this capacity and an increasing number of adults are serving at the altar, especially at solemn services in cathedrals or basilicas. In the Roman Catholic Church, altar servers that are studying to become priests or deacons might actually be acolytes, which is a necessary preparatory office before ordination. As part of their training, an acolyte might supervise children and other adults who are altar servers.

In the Roman Catholic Church, permitting females to function as altar servers has been a controversial decision. It has been approved by the church hierarchy, but many conservatives nonetheless have not liked it. Generally, whether or not to permit altar girls has been left up to individual dioceses and parishes. Some have allowed them, some have prohibited them, some have permitted them at particular mass times but not others (as a means of compromising between liberals and conservatives.) Even though the church hierarchy has permitted them, several members of it has criticised altar girls on the basis that altar servers were traditionally seen as potential candidates for the priesthood, whereas the ordination of women is prohibited.

Other Churches

In Episcopal churches, all who serve in the above positions are called acolytes.de:Messdiener no:Ministrant fr:Acolyte nl:Acoliet pl:Ministrant

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