West Texas: Acolytes stir international excitement with promo video

By Laura Shaver
Posted Mar 7, 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.


Comments (22)

  1. Michael Russell says:

    Creativity bubbles upwards! Great job!

  2. Margaret Smist says:

    Love, Love, Love this — I have been humming this song since the first time I watched. Yes, church CAN be fun!

    1. We are going to the National Cathedral this fall for the Acolyte Festival.

  3. Nathaniel Queen says:

    This is fantastic, and though I sit here in London, I am sending it to my friends and colleagues at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York where there is a vibrant and dedicated Acolyte Guild.

  4. Br. James Teets BSG, Canon says:

    Fabulous! I love it, love it, LOVE it…and that ain’t maybe!!

  5. jubal neves says:

    I like this very much! Now I am a retired bishop o Episcopal Anglican Church, in SW Braziil. This month I will be seve nty years old. But I need to say that my call to Mi nistry happened the time I was an acolyte, I was about 14 years old! During all my life as a priest I worked a lot in this min isgtry…

    1. Bom Dia: Sou diacona em Framingham MA onde temos 30% immigrantes do Brasil. Como vai coisas em SW Brasil? Qual diocese?

      1. jubal neves says:

        Hello, Lori!
        My diocese is Souwestern Brazil where I was diocesan bishop fo seventeen yeas. Santa Maria, RS, is the see. Could you write me by email? Many brazilian immigrants? My hug!

  6. Laura Thewalt says:

    I know I helped drive the view rate up on that and it was shared widely in my Episco-social networks. I’m grateful for the creativity and a way to show that serving in a liturgical role IS serving Christ!

    Great work. Great story!

  7. The Rev. Bruce Green says:

    Put it on YouTube – please.

  8. Fr Ian McAlister says:

    Fantastic … but I know of nowhere in our Diocese (North Queensland, Australia) where there is a Server’s/Acolytes Guild. Maybe start one?

  9. Fr. Jay Pierce says:

    Wonderful! We old gray hairs speak fondly of the “next generation” and haven’t a clue of how to communicate with them. This is an opening to them that invites a fuller experience and reflection on the Liturgy and the role Christ can play in their lives. Give them a hand–applaud the intent and effort. And remember, much of the music we acclaim as traditional was written not to many generations ago for the local theater or pub . . .

  10. Carolyn Beranek says:

    thank you, really enjoyed it!

  11. martha knight says:

    Loved this creative video. My rector liked it so much he posted on our parish face book page.

  12. Laurie Eiserloh says:

    Love it! Super! Attention acolytes in the Diocese of Texas, this fun, creative music video comes to us from the Diocese of West Texas. The the gauntlet has been thrown!

  13. Kathleen Dubois says:


  14. Yep, this rocks! Now, who’s up to best this production?

  15. Bill Hilton says:

    That was great. I do remember when I was 12 and an Acolyte, in Newburgh NY. 1942

  16. Katerina Whitley says:

    Bravo, bravo, to all. And, in addition to the wonderful young people, cudos to Bishop Reed for his humility and for being such a good sport.

  17. jubal neves says:

    It is realy nice! It is a way we may reach people, acolytes and families, with a good christian nurture for ever!

  18. Katherine Bolling Lenzi says:

    FAB!!! It reminded me of my days of acolyte duty in Richmond, Virginia and how much fun we all had serving at the altar.

  19. Tom Morgan says:

    Sorry to throw a little cold water on this, but did the creators of this get permission to use the original song in this way? If not, I suspect that this is copyright infringement, as it falls outside of the parody definitions in the Supreme Court decisions on fair use. Despite good intentions, there may be some legal ramifications. (Even Weird Al Yankovic licenses all of his song parodies.)

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