Greeters and Ushers
by The Rev. Daniel P Strandlund | January 25, 2018Hi friends, this Sunday, January 28th, we’re having a training and info session after church for all current ushers, greeters, and anyone interested in serving in those roles. Both of those roles are concerned with hospitality and with making sure practical pieces of a Sunday morning run smoothly.
First, the hospitality piece. There’s a story in Mark where Jesus is out in Judea, beyond the Jordan River, teaching and ministering to people. Word spreads and a crowd gathers, and people start bringing children to Jesus that he might hold them and bless them. Jesus’ disciples “spoke sternly to them,” presumably because they considered these parents and their children to be a disruption to the more important work going on (10:13). When Jesus sees this, he’s “indignant” and says, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (10:14).
For those of us who would be Jesus’ disciples, our job is to help folks, especially children, find a home in the crowd of us who are following Jesus. The crowd you and I belong to is St. Elizabeth. While it’s everyone’s job to extend hospitality, our greeters and ushers are tasked with being our most visible and intentional faces doing that work. One of the ways they do that is by helping families with children find the nursery, fidget buster bags, and the rocking chairs in the back for parents with small children.
Imagine if those disciples had acted like our greeters instead and said, “Hi, I’m Andrew. This is my brother, Peter. Welcome to the Crowd beyond the Jordan. Of course, your kids can come! They’re welcome to stay with you in the Big Crowd, or they can go to the Children’s Crowd if they like. One of the older kids will lead the way in a bit. In the meantime, we’ve got crayons and goldfish crackers for the kids while you wait to meet Jesus. Peter will show you to your seat. So glad to meet you!” Hard to imagine Jesus getting indignant with disciples who greet people like that!
Second, the practical work. Another, more well-known story in Mark is Jesus’ feeding the five thousand. (It was actually a lot more than that. The text says “five thousand men,” so with all the families, we’re probably talking about a crowd north of 10,000.) The crowd has been following Jesus for a while and are tired, and Jesus has compassion for them (6:34). Just as they did with the children in chapter ten, the disciples want to dismiss the crowds. Instead, Jesus’ compassion for the crowds turns a few loaves and fishes into an abundance of food for everyone. But this is a huge number of people, so Jesus taps the disciples to “get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass” (6:39). Jesus takes the loaves, breaks and blesses them, and then when it’s time to eat he gives the food “to his disciples to set before the people” (6:41).
In a word, he asks the disciples to ush: help people find their seats and make sure communion goes smoothly! Sure, there’s a miracle going on, but people have got to eat and we don’t want chaos on our hands. There’s an order to things. “Yes, ma’am, now’s a good time to receive your loaves and fishes. What’s that? No ma’am, it’s no trouble at all that you’re not an Episcopalian. Jesus followers of all kinds are welcome at the Crowd beyond the Jordan. Any other questions? Of course. The restroom is right this way.”
That’s not all greeters and ushers do. (For example, all the connection cards we ask newcomers’ to fill out? Greeters make sure we keep track of those. Ever wonder how the priest knows how much bread to consecrate? The ushers count and give the number.) My point is that the work greeters and ushers do isn’t new; from the very beginning Jesus’ disciples have been welcoming and ush’ing folks who are new to the crowd. Every healthy Christian community needs friendly, responsible people to do that work. Folks who smile and make eye contact when they talk to you, folks who know what a confused new face looks like and aren’t afraid to gently and helpfully approach someone looking for Godly Play or a cup of coffee.
Maybe that’s you. If so, I hope you’ll stick around after the service this Sunday. John Sharkey (firstname.lastname@example.org ) leads our usher team, and David Joiner (email@example.com ) is the head of our greeter team. We need more of each!