Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ministry of Usher after the Sandy Hook Massacre

I was eager to be with my parish today – not just because I want to be there every Sunday, but especially because of the massacre of holy innocent 1st-graders in Connecticut Friday.  I needed to be with my faith family today. I went to church wanting to hug every one of our children – most of whose baptisms I have seen.
As it happens, I was usher today.  For the last several years, usher training has consisted of three parts: (1) our role in welcoming, (2) our liturgical role, and – alas – (3) our role in security.   
I did “the usual” in welcoming. I was well prepared for my role in the liturgy as oblation bearer.  What I did not expect before arriving at church was how much more carefully I would take my role in security.
As it happened, our “angel choir” sang the introit today.  These are our very young children. As they lined up in the narthex, I had a lump in my throat.  I assume I don’t need to tell you why … on this particular day.  …  It was marvelous to hear these children sing.  The thought of children in Connecticut, who will never breathe again, haunted me.  I felt an odd tenderness and care toward these children today.
Our church is set up in the typical east/west orientation, with the back of the nave at the west.  The narthex is at right angles at the back of the nave, with glass-paneled doors between the nave and the narthex.
Generally, the usher takes his/her seat once folks have all arrived … generally by the time of the sermon.  But I couldn’t sit down.  I stood at that “crossing” between the nave and the narthex throughout the service today.  When young children left the nave to go to the bathroom or nursery, I was all eagle-eye on them ‘til I knew they were safely situated. And I was all eagle-eye about anyone entering the narthex.
I have a friend in the parish who could – I know – defuse any tense situation … or he could disarm any threat.  [Thank you, Tom!] Today I realized he and his family always sit in a seat where the usher could quickly summon him. And today I was very grateful for that. 
It’s not that I expected trouble today.  It’s just that Friday’s events made me aware how vulnerable our children are.  And, as usher today, I felt keenly my responsibility to protect them. 
And so I stood at the back of the nave throughout the service, prepared to greet and welcome all comers.  But also – I realized to my shock – prepared to do anything -- absolutely anything – to protect my Grace parishioners, young and old alike. Like a momma lion.
What an odd experience that was .


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every time Mothers Day comes around, I always feel like it's a load of shit. Not because mothers are unworthy of respect and honor, but because of how we collectively decide who should be honored that day - those who have biological children. If you trust your kids to me, your kids become my kids too - I eagle-eye them in public and in the building, whether they are with people I know or not. It matters not if we came to a location together or not, if they are there and danger arises I will not hesitate to go all mama bear even at personal risk to me. Which is why Victoria Soto's story is the one that gets me - had I been in her spot, I would have had no choice but to do the same exact thing.

12/16/2012 10:42 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Well said. I was in "mama bear mode."

But who is Victoria Soto?

12/16/2012 11:46 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Victoria Soto was one of the teachers who died trying ot protect her class.

12/16/2012 11:53 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks, Ann. I didn't know. I've limited my TV exposure to this.

12/17/2012 10:13 AM  
Blogger Ann said...

My plan for today

12/17/2012 10:32 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Ann, since the news broke Friday about the Newtown massacre, I've only heard about it on NPR and seen what PBS Newshour offers. That was plenty. I opted out of all the commercial and cable news channels. I just didn't need them whipping me up more than the story itself had done. And it is a horrific story. I most certainly didn't need to see idiot reporters thrusting microphones into Newtown parents' faces, asking "How do you feel?"

12/17/2012 8:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

BTW, NPR has had some sort of psychologist each day since Friday, talking about the psychological issues after such a massacre. I was comforted this morning by his comments. He talked about being at a birthday party over the weekend with many children, and he confessed that he was on "high alert." He went on to explain that's normal. I was glad to hear that ... and to know my experience at church Sunday wasn't at all unusual.

12/17/2012 8:08 PM  
Blogger CPT NightHawk said...

More and more churches are realizing the crucial role the usher plays in insuring a welcoming and safe environment for worship. I had an opportunity to attend training paid for by the MO Dept of Public Safety and conducted by Strategos International. It was a sobering experience. Incidents like Sandy Hook have happened in the past and will happen again. No amount of posturing or ill thought out legislation by national leaders will do anything to mitigate "lone wolf" attacks. Our best hope is that a plan is in place to minimize as humanly possible the damage a determined madman will do. It is up to us as a church to provide for our own security.

12/18/2012 8:52 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I just now saw your comment, CPT, and I thoroughly agree. Especially when I'm usher, I'm glad to see you there in your pew.

8/04/2013 10:52 PM  

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