Ushering Outside my Comfort Zone

Once we settled into life as parishioners at Church of the Resurrection in Wichita, we wanted to get involved. Jennifer signed up for Children’s Liturgy of the Word and I became an usher.

What possessed me to do this?

I’m an introvert. I’ve never been comfortable walking up to people and asking them things. Being an usher would mean approaching people and asking if I could find them a seat. Even worse, asking people in a pew to make room for others.

People could say no, I’d be put on the spot. Those feelings of rejection would come rushing back. I’d be thinking about myself and not the people I was serving. Why would I go there? Why would I expose myself to that?

Well, I stepped out in faith for two reasons. First was not so much a desire, but a sense that I needed to venture outside my comfort zone. The second was a fascination with how ushers did what they did. Always in the right place at the right time, always gentle and unassuming, and always willing to go the extra mile for a parishioner. They worked like a well-oiled machine behind the scenes and that appealed to me.

I was a little nervous my first day and when a young child vomited in his pew I thought to myself,  “Oh man, what did I get myself into!” I thought if hung back, some more experienced guys would jump in and take care of it. They did and that was a good thing because they knew where the cleaning supplies were. All things considered, they made it look easy.

The vomiting child was the most noteworthy thing that happened during my usher tenure at Resurrection – praise God. It was a good experience that helped me start coming out of my shell. It was good enough that when we moved back to Kansas City and became parishioners at Holy Trinity, I joined the usher ministry right away.

Wouldn’t you know something would happen the first time I ushered back in KC! A woman in my section became lightheaded and needed to be escorted outside to get some fresh air. I couldn’t run away this time, she was too close. But God was taking care of me, and her, because an experienced usher was nearby to assist. If this was the most noteworthy thing to happen during my usher tenure at Holy Trinity I figured I had it made.

A Further Step Outside my Comfort Zone

Most weeks go pretty smoothly. I usher the 11:30AM Mass on Sunday and our only capacity crowds are around Easter and Christmas. During football season, when the Kansas City Chiefs play at noon, we barely reach 70% full. Even when we have the minimum crew of four, we’re able to handle things with little to no difficulty. It’s a nice, laid back Mass and just right for a guy like me who’s still coming out of his shell.

Once I got comfortable with the system I stepped up to usher different events, like Confirmation. I guess I didn’t know what to expect. The first year I ushered the event, it was a full house but everything went well. Folks like to save seats for late arriving family members, so we have to hustle and sometimes get creative. It all worked out fine, though.

My second year ushering Confirmation was another full house and I was working in a section I don’t usually work. The chairs behind the pews were getting full, folks were standing and there were still more coming. The pews looked pretty full except for some seats still being saved for late arrivals. I was starting to feel uncomfortable. I really needed to be moving people closer together and making more room but therein lies the internal conflict. Do what’s right and risk rejection or leave well enough alone and stand there inside my bubble.

All of a sudden, with a smile that seemingly never leaves her face, our Director of Youth Faith Formation walks into my section and creates the room I was hesitant to create myself. People are sliding over and getting cozy, others are moving into adjacent rows and people are being motioned forward from the back and into seats.

Amazement and guilt set in at the same time. Part of me wanted to upset at her for infringing on my turf. But her smile never wavered, her joy never faded, and it was obvious that, to her, this was never about an usher not doing his job. She was just trying to find everyone a seat so they could fully participate in the celebration. I was left to admire her and be disappointed in myself.

The rest of Confirmation was outstanding, as it usually is. The Archbishop was there and although I can’t remember his homily, I’m sure it was awesome – it always is. I went home that night wondering if I was cut out for usher duty. Would I ever get to the point where I could politely assert myself the way she did?

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t find out for awhile. Shortly after that second Confirmation experience, I emailed the Usher Coordinator and told him Confirmation was a little too stressful for me and that I probably wouldn’t volunteer for another one.

My ushering exploits were far from over, though…

Todd K Marsha is a Catholic husband and father living in suburban Kansas City. Through his writing charism he tells the powerful story of his conversion to the faith, his triumphs through God's grace, and his continuing struggle to live a more Christ-like life.

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