#Illuminare will be editorial this morning. I am beaming a searchlight on the ushering protocol in churches, interrogating the convention.
Ushering is an administrative protocol of a local church, not a ministerial calling. It is nonetheless an important duty. Ushering is a diaconate assignment. We can thus fit it under the broad spectrum of the ministry of “helps”. In other words ushers are technically deacons.
Their role unencumbers the preaching of the word. The traditional role of ushers in church is to administer order in the sitting arrangement and to collect offerings. As any churchgoer will attest, ushers attach a significant level of importance to these primary duties, as they should. The usher is probably the first person you’ll meet when you go to church. Some churches have a sub-branch called Greeters.
As the first point of contact the usher sets the tone for the mood of the worshipper. (Apart from parking lot attendants). Considering that some congregants can be particularly difficult, an usher must be an extremely patient person. An usher must be very forbearing, able to accommodate the rough edges of human willfulness. If truth be told, an usher must be willing to take abuse. Abusers come to church. The church is an all-comers convention.
Apart from the foregoing an usher must be willing to spot a large artificial flower on his/her dress/suit. J Ushers love artificial petals on dresses and suits. There is something about ushers and petals of flower. In many modern churches the usher must also have a budget for “uniform”. Only choristers have a higher budget. The bottom line is that the work of a church usher is not an easy job. An usher must be mature enough to deflect the ironic tendencies of some congregants with grace and poise. It is also important for the usher to be discerning, and wise; to understand human nature and its vagaries. Some Christians are particularly recalcitrant, and some people take out their frustration on church ushers.
That said, there’s ushering and there’s over-ushering. Over-ushering is detrimental to the spirit of worship. Not all ushers understand this fact and some approach their duties like disciplinarians and policemen and women. They INSIST on where you should sit in church, remove the option of personal preference. An unnecessary and insistent disciplinary denial of personal sitting preference can be upsetting. It disrupts the personal equilibrium of the worshipper, which then affects the quality of worship offered to God. Things must be done decently and in order, but not at the expense of spiritual equilibrium needed for worship.
We’re all at different places when we come to church. Some are heavy laden. Ushering must be pre-assuring of deliverance In the presence of the Lord there is liberty. It’s why we feel free to jump and shout before God. The chartered liberty we have is why we can roll on the floor and sit on the floor in God’s presence. There is no prescribed dance step for worship in the Bible. What God requires is a pure heart. John 4:24. This sense of liberty is important. It is at the very root of the New Covenant.
The philosophy of the New Testament is predicated on Fatherhood. We are not just God’s creation we are his children. Children feel free in the presence of their father. They eschew formalism. They freely express themselves. God our father encourages us to be BOLD before him. A sense of liberty is therefore needed for worship. Over-ushering encumbrances the individual comfort and context required for veritable worship.
Some people are claustrophobic. They do not do well in inner pews or cloisters of a church. Some people are expressive dancers. They need space for rhythmic pirouette and prances. Some people are frontbenchers, and some are backbenchers. They want to worship incognito or incognita. These individual preferences must not be curtailed in the pursuit of sardine-like order in the filling of pews. Forcing people to sit where they are uncomfortable in will necessarily curtail the quality of worship offered God.
An usher getting into an argument with a congregant before service is counterproductive. Will affect his or her worship. Worship is the most important aspect of church service. Perhaps those who come early to church should be rewarded with personal choice of sitting location. A highhanded approach to church ushering cannot be in conformity with the spirit of Christ. And we see excesses and even usurpation of Christ’s authority when ushers turn back people on account of dressing. It must amaze God we turn people away from church!
We have the mistaken notion that the church is the locale of the perfect, yet the facts of our lives indicate otherwise. We often mistake the tenets of Christianity for our cultural worldview, and personal biases and preferences. It’s why we deem some dresses “inappropriate” for church and so turn people back from church. The Holy Spirit goes to great trouble to bring people to church. Bible says he goes to byways and highways. How can we then turn people away from God ON ANY ACCOUNT?! God looks at the heart, not conventional correctness.
This is not saying there should be no decorum in civil society. Nay! But we’re all at different stages of growth in Christ. And new comers to church cannot conform to our conventional standards. They’re new in church! Can we reject whom Christ has accepted? We forget we were the unclean animals in Peter’s apparition in Acts chapter 10. God is patient with us. We ought to be patient with others. Ushering cannot be at cross-purposes with the objectives of God. Come unto me ALL ye that labour and are heavy-laden Jesus said. The church is the place for ALL.
The Spirit of God himself exercises an authoritative ambiance that brings order to church service. To that extent ushers are administrative agents of the Spirit of Grace, mechanical extensions of his directorial arms. If ushering must be successful it must be an expression of the love of the Spirit. If ushering must be successful it must align with fundamental objectives of Christ’s salvation policy – All sinners come!
If ushering must be successful it must enable the spirit of liberty before God our Father. Liberty and order are not mutually exclusive. There are churches without ushers, just offering collectors. And there’s order! There is a balance somewhere. A good usher knows to strike the balance between individual liberty and corporate order.
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org