The world of ushering is itself an art form: the subtlety, the unspoken solemnity, the majesty of it all. Many ignorantly focus on the type of the offering plate itself (KFC bucket vs. oversized cloth-covered dinner plate vs. two-pronged velour bag). What captivates me is the movement of the ushers themselves. Being raised in church, I’ve seen just about every type of ushering move there is.
The Jolted Usher – This is the usher whose only real reason to come to church is to get to pass the offering plates. It’s the high point of his week. A quick jab or poke is needed to wake him up and let him know it’s time to do his thing.
The Noobie – This is the replacement usher who’s called on at the last minute because Brother Bob decided to go fishing that day. The noobie shows his true colors quickly as he accidentally breaks the cardinal rule and passes a second plate down the same row. It will be another few years in the D League before he’s called back up.
The Wave-Off – This is the awkward moment when there’s only one person sitting on a row. A delicate dance is had between usher and member, where they decide through gesture and eye contact whether it’s really necessary to send a plate down a pew with one person who probably isn’t going to tithe anyway.
The Walker – I loved being this person growing up. The walker is the person who gets to stand up and walk the offering plate from one end of the pew to the other end (since there’s a big gaping hole of empty space in between). Not only did it let me imagine that I was in the elite world of ushering (even for a moment), it allowed me to stretch my legs and gird myself for the coming onslaught of the sermon.
The Coronation – I was in a church for a few years where at the end of every offering, Sister Beulah would crank up the organ and blast out “Were the whole realm of nature mine,” indicating that we were to stand in honor of the ushers, now coming down to the front like Magi bringing their gifts to baby Jesus.
I thought I’d seen it all, and then I experienced something that took my breath away. I worked in a larger traditional church with a sanctuary that sat over 2000. I instinctively understood that the offering would be a long, drawn out process, as the ushers covered so much real estate. Not so.
Synchronized Ushering – Halfway through the first service, no sign of the ushers. They did an offertory prayer, still no ushers. I thought their union had decided to strike for better wages. No ushers to be seen. And then, halfway through the first verse of the special music, through some type of telekinesis that I still can’t explain, all the ushers magically stood up at the same time, throughout the room, instantly at their post. This was my first experience with synchronized ushering, at it was magnificent to behold.
I watched them for weeks, trying to discern the magic of their timing. Was it morse code? Did the worship leader lift his left pant leg like a quarterback signaling a man-in-motion? Did the light operator flash a stage light to let the ushers know when to rise? I never knew. I simply gazed in wonder at world of synchronized ushering, knowing that these men were a cut above everyone else. Everyone else just played at ushering. These men lived it. They were the Navy Seals of ushers, and I was privileged to be in their presence.
QUESTION: What experiences have you had with the world of ushering?