WHEN I WAS TWELVE YEARS OLD, I decided to apply for church membership. I was so excited about doing something important! After I was accepted as a member, the people in charge (I learned later they were called "the board"), asked me what I would like to do for the church. Without a second thought, I said, "Ushering!"
Back then, my definition of an usher was pretty simple. It was someone who stood by the door of the church and said "hello" to everyone. I'm not sure why I wanted to be an usher, but I can remember imagining myself in a suit standing at the door welcoming members and visitors. It felt like such a noble job. At that time, I was more interested in how this job would make me look and feel rather than how this position would support the healing mission of Christian Science. Since then, my concept of ushering has radically changed.
I am beginning to see how important ushering is to the practice of Christian Science healing. I see it as something much more than just a job. Simply looking up usher in the dictionary started this shift in thought. I found words that shepherded my thought toward three different aspects of ushering. First, I realized the need for practical tenderness, love, and spiritual strength when ushering. Other words in the definition made me wrestle with what it means to truly introduce someone to Christian Science. Words such as gives indication of and harbinger pointed to something deeper than just simply voicing the theology of Christian Science. Finally, the words charged with maintaining silence and order helped me realize the necessity of alertness and active mental defense when ushering.
As I thought about the role of an usher, I began to think about a Bible story Mary Baker Eddy uses to begin the chapter "Christian Science Practice" in Science and Health. This story is a Gospel narrative of a woman coming to Jesus to show unquestionable affection for his goodness and purity. She came behind Jesus, washed his feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and then perfumed them with costly fragrant oil. At the end of this narrative, Mrs. Eddy asks the questions: "Did Jesus spurn the woman? Did he repel her adoration?" She states that he did not and then explains the ramifications of his decision: The people began questioning Jesus' validity as a prophet. After all, he "... did not at once detect the woman's immoral status and bid her depart ..." (p. 363). Instead, he gave a short parable, which checked the self-righteousness of the Pharisees who were condemning the woman. The story concluded with Jesus freeing the woman from her sins (see Luke 7:36–50).
Every time I read this Bible story and try to practice what it is teaching, the role of ushering becomes more profound. I see an usher as someone who emulates the love, tenderness, and compassion of Christ Jesus, and who doesn't judge based on what he or she sees. Jesus must have realized something in this woman that the Pharisees couldn't recognize. I think he saw tremendous good. I don't think he would have seen this unless he was an immaculate usher. He only "gave indication of" the good of the woman and ushered out the wrong. He neutralized the seeming power of the woman's sin and of the Pharisees' mistaken beliefs. This completely freed her from any imprisoning sin, and she was no longer a sinner. By seeing everyone as an idea of God, good, ushers can quickly escort thoughts of dislike, prejudice, or apathy out of human consciousness. This watchful ushering opens the door to healing.
Jesus' example helped me see ushering as a vital part of "the Church Universal and Triumphant" (Manual of The Mother Church, p. 19). This concept of Church includes, but also extends beyond, weekly church services. And this same watchful, spiritual ushering can be done on a plane, on the subway, at a movie, or in the park—it can be done everywhere! So let's usher in this "Church Universal" together!
CHURCH ALIVE offers reports from around the world on what Christian Scientists are doing to share their love for Christian Science with their communities. The views expressed in these reports are entirely those of the contributing authors.
CHURCH ALIVE: WHAT WORKS? Send us your ideas—what's helped to burden or enrich your branch church, Reading Room, Sunday School, lectures, or any other church-related activities. Your fellow church members around the world want to know! E-mail us at email@example.com. And please put "Church Alive" in the subject line.
Ian Gudger lives in Tacoma, Washington.
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