We joined the parish in Sept 2009 and got an intro to stewardship. I tried out lectoring, we greeted arriving parishioners, Jennifer taught Children’s Liturgy of the Word and we volunteered in the nursery where Jack would play while we celebrated Sunday Mass.
Things were a little rocky heading up to my first lector assignment. As the day approached I hadn’t been called to have my training session with the ministry leader. I felt like I would be walking in cold and have no idea what to do or when. Not a good feeling at all. She finally called and we met at the church for brief session. It was a decent enough orientation but I still felt I was gonna zig when everyone else zagged.
With no small thanks to God, Mass went fine. There were no hiccups or embarrassing moments. My name wasn’t on the schedule for a long time after that, though. Quarters went by. What was going on? Was I that bad?
Not wanting to rock the boat, yet secretly stewing over it all the while, I put off calling or emailing the ministry leader to ask about not being scheduled. Seems like there were plenty of weeks with just one lector when I was quite available to assist.
Eventually I found out the church secretary prepared the ministry schedule, so I emailed her. Miss Beth responded promptly and told me I hadn’t signed up for that year. I turned in stewardship forms right when we signed up then checked different ministries when we signed up for the following year just two months later. Long story short, I wasn’t even on the list.
Ok, so it had nothing to do with my ability to lector which begs the question, “How or why did I fill out those forms differently the second time around?” Remember, there are no coincidences.
A New Ministry for a New Man
The Holy Spirit must have been at work steering me towards something more challenging. Speaking to an audience has never been a big deal for me. I’m a former Toastmaster and I can remember acting out little role plays in the living room growing up. I was the teacher and a group of imaginary students sat in the “classroom” before me. I wanted to be a teacher when I was younger but being gullible, I allowed my high school history teacher to talk me out of it.
What was going to present a challenge at Mass, though? What role was I a little afraid of, despite having a great deal of admiration for? What role could take me outside my comfort zone, just enough?
You know, of all the folks who help out during Mass I think the ushers are the coolest. They seem to always be in the right place at the right time, helping people find seats, and taking the collection. As cool as I thought it would be to be part of that team, I didn’t think I was ready for it.
It’s never been fun for me to go into a situation not knowing if I’m doing the right thing, standing in the right place, or taking the right cues at the right time. It’s an uncomfortable feeling but experience has taught me that always avoiding those uncomfortable feelings doesn’t get you anywhere in life. When I was filling out those stewardship forms for the second time, the Holy Spirit moved me to check ‘Usher’. So let the discomfort begin!
From Consternation to Inspiration
During one of the first masses I ushered at Resurrection, a young girl tossed her cookies right in the pew. “Uhhhhhhhhhhh…yeah. So did ‘ya see the ball game last night?” Luckily, there were other experienced ushers on the crew who jumped in, comforted the sick child, helped the parents, and got the mess cleaned up without any disruption to the Mass. Now that’s how it’s supposed to work. Yeah, I wanted to be the usher who knew exactly what to do and when but that day I was the new guy so I held doors and paid attention.
I grew in the role and finally felt like I’d made it when I ushered Easter Sunday in 2011. The church was full but everything went off without a hitch. I jumped in and found seats for parishioners, communicated well with my team, and enjoyed every minute. Three months later, I’d be off to a new parish in a new city knowing I wanted to be part of the usher ministry as soon as I got there. Mission accomplished Holy Spirit!
I’m currently an usher here at Holy Trinity and I’m far from the greatest usher to ever escort a family of 5 to an open pew. I still struggle with asking folks to make room and as people walk by me as they’re coming in, I’m often conflicted with whether or not I should take control, gather them in and find them a seat.
Still I know the Holy Spirit has me in this situation for a reason. Perhaps it’s to be an example of selfless service to Jack who ushers by my side every three weeks. We’re quite a team bringing the collection basket to the altar. We both feel great when we do it and the smiling parishioners looking our way as we return to the back of the church is a tasty icing on the cake.
I’m just gettin’ warmed up!
Back to the previous chapter…