Ushers have long occupied a place of solemn glory in the church—and by “usher,” I don’t simply mean “door greeter” (though these men and women are valuable servants as well). I’m talking about the old-school troop of reverend men who show up in suits every Sunday, keep watch at the sanctuary doors, and—in hushed tones and with sure gestures—direct you to your seat in the house of the Lord.
I suppose part of the reason for my sense of awe at ushers is that my dad was one when I was a little kid—head usher, in fact. On Sundays, he and his fellows directed the seating, the offering collection, and the administration of the Lord’s Supper. In his charcoal grey three-piece, he used to diagram the other ushers’ respective territories and movement patterns with a geometer’s precision (he’s an engineer, so naturally he diagrammed everything).
In my childhood eyes, ushers seemed like the most important people in the service, rivalled only by the pastor. I could not name it as such back then, but their presence to me felt like what I imagine the glory of the Old Testament priests and Levites felt like to Israel.
Like ushers, those men of old had a number of tasks around the temple courts. Worship was serious work, and it needed to run smoothly. The heart of their work, though, was to bring the people into God’s presence while still maintaining the holiness of the Lord’s worship. Indeed, the two tasks went together—they were called to guard the house of the Lord from any defiling impurity precisely so the community could experience the blessing of his company. Priests had a unique privilege and solemn glory: that of mediating the joyous, ...1