West Texas: Acolytes stir international excitement with promo video

March 6, 2013

[Episcopal Diocese of West Texas] The 109th annual Diocesan Council for the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas erupted during the showing of the video, “Serve Christ Maybe,” a promotional video for the 2013 Acolyte Festival, created by Scott Parnell, youth ministry director at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Corpus Christi, Texas, and a group of his high school-age youth.

The video promotes the ministry of acolytes and is set to lyrics written by Parnell and sung to the tune of the popular song “Call Me Maybe.” The acolytes who perform in the video dance their way down the church aisle, light the candles, swing the thurible, and pop up behind pews in Good Shepherd’s choir loft. As the song draws to a close, basic details for the upcoming Acolyte Festival are displayed, followed by a cameo by the Rt. Rev. David Reed, bishop suffragan of the diocese, who mouths the lyrics, inviting acolytes to come join the fun.

The council floor received the video with stomping feet and a standing ovation, and when Reed appeared, laughter and hollers filled the AmericanBank Center in Corpus Christi. The young people who were assembled for the Youth in Action event were on their feet, dancing along.

Youth in Action is an annual gathering of youth groups from across the diocese to participate in a day-long outreach project in the same city where Diocesan Council is hosted.

Parnell said the idea to make the video developed with a group of eight high school-age youth that come together at Good Shepherd every Wednesday night to assist Parnell in leading a middle school-age youth group. “They wanted to make a video that would help them teach one of their lessons,” said Parnell. “It was originally going to be based on commercials shown during the Super Bowl and why the promotions are bad for our youth.” Instead, Parnell suggested a better idea – make a video to promote the upcoming Acolyte Festival that Good Shepherd will host on April 19-20.

The youth jumped right in, and during an overnight lock-in at the church, the group spent two and a half hours perfecting the moves choreographed by Abbey Shockley while Parnell held the camera. The youth, who also serve as acolytes, were excited to promote the ministry. “I enjoy acolyting because it gives us a chance to play a huge role in leading a Eucharist [service], something that is often reserved for adults. It is nice to know that no matter what your age is you can still serve God and your church community in a significant way,” said Shockley.

Dave Moore, who leads the contemporary worship service at the church on Sunday evenings, recorded the music, and Lauren Rader, a professional musician who sings at the church, exquisitely sang Parnell’s lyrics.

And just how did Bishop Reed get in there? “He owed me something,” said Parnell, “for organizing Youth in Action and agreeing to host this festival. Not really, but he was a great sport. I asked for a cameo so we could try to drive up attendance, and he agreed.” Parnell filmed Reed’s part the Wednesday before Diocesan Council convened.

On average, the Acolyte Festival is not very well attended, but this year’s promotional video may change that. “If the response at Youth in Action was any indication, we could have a very full house,” said Parnell.

Parnell has received notes of congratulations from across the nation, with requests to show the video in other dioceses, Episcopal churches, and churches of other denominations. At the beginning of March, people in more than 162 countries had viewed the video on YouTube, where the “hits,” or views, have reached more than 48,000.

Comments from those writing to Parnell come with gratefulness for his efforts. The senior acolyte at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Lafayette, Louisiana, wrote, “I am jealous of such enthusiastic acolytes over there in Corpus Christi. I usually end up serving two to three times a month due to lack of attendance. Hopefully with some of my new ideas in mind for training and this awesome video, I will be able to revamp the acolyte program before leaving for college.”

The acolytes from Good Shepherd definitely portrayed the ministry as great fun, but they also realize its importance and appreciate the opportunity to serve. “Acolyting has allowed me to understand the church more effectively, and I have grown closer to God by reminding myself of what God has taught me,” said Trevor Mauck.

Elizabeth Kirkland said, “Acolyting is a great way for people to become involved and give back to their church communities. I have loved sitting right next to the altar because I feel closer to God. In addition, we are all so excited about the video, and I had a great experience filming it.”

— Laura Shaver is the communications officer for the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas.

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