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 .