Ushers in the Bible
The Second Book of Kings speaks of the “keepers of the threshold” who collected money offers from the people (2 Kings 22:4). Guardians of the threshold are also mentioned in the First Book of Chronicles. 9:19, and Jeremiah 35:4 calls Shallum a keeper of the threshold. First Chronicles 26 lists several classes of gatekeepers who kept watch 24 hours a day. Nehemiah 7:45 notes that 138 gatekeepers returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. After that time, they seem to have been included as members of the Levites who ministered at the Temple.
Ushers in Christian History
In the Christian era, the third-century letter of Pope Cornelius mentions doorkeepers serving the Church of Rome. The Apostolic Constitution, a fourth-century Syrian Church document, also speaks of the role of doorkeeper or porter. In the medieval period, the role of porter was one the four minor orders, which Thomas Aquinas described as carrying out some the the original functions of deacons in the church. The minor order of porter was conferred on all those seeking ordination to the priesthood until Pope Paul VI suppressed all the minor orders in 1972.
Ushers in Recent Times
The actual ministry was generally carried out in parishes by laymen who served as ushers. For generations, ushers have assisted parish worship by welcoming people, helping them find seats in church, taking up the collection and passing out parish bulletins.
When the liturgical reforms began after the Second Vatican Council, the role of the usher was already well established in almost every parish. Because they were already in place, many parishes saw little need for training ushers for the new liturgy; and many ushers assumed that their role remained untouched by the currents of change swirling around them. This lack of attention to their ministry was just fine with some ushers, who were not eager to attend meetings or training sessions. Others reacted differently, seeing the neglect of their ministry as a devaluing of their role in the parish and in its worship.
The renewed liturgy called for the renewal of every ministry, including the ministry of ushers. Far from devaluing the usher’s role, the liturgical renewal calls for a fuller and more important ministry. While some of the usher’s functions remain the same (e.g., taking up the collection,) new responsibilities have surfaced, and the whole purpose of this ministry is now seen in a new light. Perhaps the most important role or purpose can be summed up in the word hospitality.
The usher/greeter is often the first person whom worshipers meet when they arrive at church. The usher/greeter has the opportunity and the responsibility to represent the rest of the assembly and most of all the person of the Pastor in offering hospitality. People’s impression of a parish is significantly shaped by the presence or absence of a welcoming atmosphere when they come to the doors of our church for worship. Offering a smile and a word of welcome can have a profound impact on people as they arrive, especially if they are visitors to the parish. The very act of welcoming someone often enables that person to be more hospitable to others as well. The fist of welcome that the usher/greeter gives is passed on, like the ripples created by a stone tossed in a pond.
Quotes taken from: “Guide for Ushers and Greeters” by Lawrence E. Mick
Specific Duties and Responsibilities of St. Valentine Ushers/Greeters
To serve in the capacity as an usher at our parish, you must fit the following criteria:
- You must be a member of St. Valentine Church
- You must be eighteen (18) years of age.
- You must complete the Safe Environment program.
We need reliable, conscientious, energetic, caring and dedicated people to become Ushers or Greeters. Anyone who is a "people person" may be an usher. If you would like to become an Usher please let any head usher know.
- Head Ushers are to have a full crew (no less than 8 ushers)
- Use your assigned Ushers
- Use Ushers from other Masses
- Use any member of the Parish that is willing to help.
Head Ushers are responsible for identifying the people who will carry the Gifts to the Priest at Offertory. Hopefully, a member of the family who requested the intention for the mass would be at Mass that Sunday and show a willingness to carry up the gifts. Head Ushers should first seek these individuals before asking another to bring up the gifts.
A schedule should be assigned each month so everyone knows what duties they are responsible to do. If you are not able to be at Mass when you are scheduled please find a replacement and notify the Head Usher from your designated Mass.
Specific Duties of all Ushers and Greeters
- Arrive early, at least 30 minutes before the liturgy.
- Ushers are requested to dress appropriately for any Church Service.
- All Ushers are to maintain the positions assigned to them.
- Ushers attending a Mass not assigned to them are encouraged to check in with the Head Usher and offer to help if needed.
- Maintain a polite and courteous attitude at all times.
- Assist people who wish to be seated.
- Offer assistance to parishioners when needed with Votive Candles.
- Be alert to emergencies.
- When taking up the collection, Ushers should bow at the Altar. This should also be done for Communion Lead Out.
- Ushers will pass out bulletins and Pittsburgh Catholics after Mass.
- After mass, two ushers must take the collection baskets and empty them into the Deposit Bags which must be sealed and initialed and logged prior to the collection as it leaves the church to be counted. This is required by the Diocese. Ushers must take their turn doing this to avoid regularity and complacency.
From time to time Ushers will be needed to help sell various items for fund raisers before and after mass. Before leaving the church Ushers need to check the pews for trash or lost items, lift the kneelers, put away any books that are left out, close windows, and take care of anything that may arise. Ushers should not be leaving before the church is properly checked over. (No one should leave before Mass is over.)
An Usher's Prayer
Lord, in your love you gather your people this day, help me to serve them in a Christ-like manner, even as your son Jesus served those who gathered about him. Make me prayerful, patient, helpful and understanding, and may I radiate the joy that faith brings as I serve their needs. Give me your strength to support my fellow ministers. May all who assemble to celebrate our common faith in the risen savior be glad of heart for being here and for having encountered your son in one another, in our priest, at the tables of the book and the bread, and through the ministry of ushers like me. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
-Gregory F. Smith, O. Carm