The black church in the United States, as an institution, functions with, and is supported by, numerous auxiliaries, boards and departments. These working arms of the church enable the body of Christ to carry out its basic missions of spreading the gospel, attending to the needs of the people, and assuring the church’s administrative, physical and spiritual components remain in accord with governing Biblical principles and accepted religious tenets.
Generally, the form of auxiliaries, boards and departments in individual black churches are determined by the age, denomination, size, location and specific needs of the church body. However, there is one auxiliary that most modern black churches have, regardless of their age, denomination, size or location: an usher board or usher guild. The work of the usher board is considered a ministry of the church. The pulpit, music and usher departments of the black church are often the three most visible ministries of the church. Each has an important servant role in the church’s overall ministry. Yet, each plays a different, but essential, role.
On Usher’s Day, usher boards from many different churches, including usher guilds from different denominations, are invited to participate in the annual day activities of the host church. On that day, the ushers of the host church do not work. For them, it is a day of rest, except for the grand usher march, which usually comes at the end of the program. Each of the invited churches comes with a major donation which is presented during the usher board roll call and march. These “gifts of love,” depending upon the number of sister churches invited, can, and do often, amount to thousands of dollars. Usually, all of the money, except for expenses, goes into the coffers of the host church. This is repeated year after year. Ushers refer to it as helping the usher board of a sister church. One of the highlights of Usher’s Day is the Grand March. All ushers, including the host ushers, participate in the grand march of the ushers. Those churches with children and youth usher boards add a youthful energy to the procession.
The Grand March is a time that the congregation eagerly awaits. the organist would play one of the great marching songs of the church, the ushers line up in the back of the church and begin their march around the entire inner confines of the sanctuary, leaving their love gift on the collection table. In almost every church, one waits to see the ushers “cut the corners.” Cutting the corners refers to sharp, precision-like turns made by ushers as they march around the entire church. The turns bring to mind a battalion of soldiers quickly turning from one formation to another or a marching band doing the same. Ushers of the host church march last. It is a time of high celebration. When they get to the front of the church, the ushers, to the delight of the audience, move into an almost syncopated genuflecting movement, as they cut the corners during their grand march. By now, the crowd is on its feet, applauding the ushers on their day.I am a door keeper in the house of the Lord and I love it...Happy Usher's Day!