Ushering and the Art of Hospitality

Every art requires a special skill that gives it particular form and beauty, including the artistry called forth in the ministry of hospitality. All who come together in worship are invited to enhance the sense of belonging, but ushers have the unique ministry of creating a sense of a caring people who gather to pray. Ushers are usually the first ministers that the people meet as they enter into the sacred space to celebrate Eucharist.

From the beginning of a celebration to its closing, the usher extends a caring presence among the assembly. Ushers, as an integral part of the assembly, should always be in the main body of the church building unless needed elsewhere. They are models of participation through their attention to the readings, their sung responses, and their attitude of prayer and reverence throughout the worship experience.

For many years, our churches have affirmed ushers as service ministers. Service continues to be an important characteristic of every minister of hospitality, but even more important is the quality of “being present” to the assembly. Indeed ushers are special “signs,” not only of doing for people, but of taking time with those who gather.

The second essential quality of this ministry is the gift of graciousness. Some personalities have a spontaneous outgoing sense of hosting, while in others this gift is sometimes latent and needs to be encouraged. Many who have been ushers for several years simply need to know what is expected of them. Their response will be generous and cordial.

Ushers may be men and women, parent and child, families, teenagers, disabled and able-bodied, and representatives of different ethnic cultures. Anyone who is gifted with a smile and a caring presence has the tremendous potential to be a minister of hospitality. Children, too, find the role of welcoming the assembly an excellent experience in hospitality.

Training programs, as well as renewal times, are as important for ministers of hospitality. Such a training session has the following segments. First, a basic understanding of the theology of worship as well as a deep appreciation of the Sunday Scriptures is essential. Secondly, some historical perspective is very beneficial. In the Old Testament, we read of doorkeepers in the temple. Second Kings 22 speaks of these persons being sent to the high priest with the offerings. Second Chronicles 9 holds such persons as responsible members of the tribes and highly esteemed. In the New Testament, Paul urges the Corinthians to “let things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). Ushers could certainly resonate with this as they aid the particular movement of the assembly. In Acts 6, the community set aside certain people to give collected goods to the poor. With the influx of many people into Christian faith during the first centuries, several new ministries were established.

Beyond the theological-scriptural and the historic dimensions, ministers of hospitality appreciate knowing what expectations or responsibilities are theirs. They are to be at the church in plenty of time to have matters in order and thus be able to truly greet both regular and new people, assisting the handicapped and seating people in front. Just as an usher’s responsibility begins well in advance of the service, so it concludes only after the church building is cleaned after the celebration.

The artistry of hospitality does indeed shape the life of a church. Ushers, as ministers of hospitality, are men and women of faith whose attitudes will set the tone for prayer-filled worship. Ushers, who find their ministry to be an art, have the magnificent opportunity of welcoming the people gathered in Christ’s name.