Sepia Saturday - The Secret Signal

When I was in the 3rd grade, about the age of 8, I was asked by our local church pastor to be an acolyte to serve during church services. The duties basically entailed lighting the candles on the altar before the procession, passing and receiving the collection plates, and assisting during communion. Finally, and this was important, extinguishing the candles and leading the pastor during the final hymn to the rear of the sanctuary where he would give a benediction.

Why was that duty important? Well it had to be finely coordinated between an 8 year old and a church pastor while singing a hymn to have things flow just right. What was needed was a "secret signal."

When Reverend Dougherty trained me (I was his first and only acolyte during his tenure) he told me he would give me a secret signal when to go extinguish the candles and meet him at the small stair case leading from the podium. I would then walk before him during the recessional leading him and the choir out of the sanctuary.

"I will nod my head at the beginning of the next to last verse of the hymn we are singing," said Mr. Dougherty, "That will be our secret signal."
Your's truly,  Reverend Dougherty - 1963
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When Mr. Dougherty was assigned to another church it was a sad day. He was not only my pastor, and scout master, (his wife was my 3rd grade teacher and Sunday school teacher) he was also my friend. I remember crying the day we sent him off to another church. He hugged me and told me that I no longer need that secret signal to do the work that needed to be done for the next pastor.

Years later when I recieved word that I had heard that Reverend Dougerty had passed on I wrote a letter of condolence to his wife Grace. I told her of our "secret signal." She replied in a letter saying that she never knew of that signal even though she had watched her husband preach every Sunday during their entire time together. I guess it was truly a secret signal.


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