from the March 2015 Cathedral Connection

When my annual pledge envelope arrives in the mail, I prayerfully consider my financial commitment, and I also peruse the form that asks me to consider how I might serve All Souls in the coming year.  I don’t know about you, but there have been numerous times when my pencil hovered above the little box marked “Usher.”  I’ve never marked that box, partly because my schedule is so erratic, but also because I didn’t know enough about what the responsibility entailed.  Oh, and also because I thought I would feel “on stage,” which for me invites the possibility of tripping on a rug or stubbing my toe on the altar.  It occurred to me that others might also feel my reluctance, so I talked with a few ushers about their experiences.

Bob Huber, who began ushering about 2 and ½ years ago, admits to being a bit nervous before his first service, but All Souls usher training held him in good stead, and a youngster serving as an usher provided “a beautiful example,” Bob said.  “I figured, if these kids can do it, so can I.”

Bob’s initial trepidation has been replaced with comfort and “an amazing learning experience about the history of our church,” as he serves not only at Sunday services, but at baptisms, ordinations, confirmations, funerals, and other rituals that define the All Souls community.

Ushers commit to one Sunday service a month, and other services are strictly voluntary.  So, you can be very involved or do the minimum.

“Ushering gives me such joy that I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to do it,” said Bob.

Always looking for opportunities to give back, Ilona Kenrick was attracted to ushering because it was something she could do with her husband.

Ilona ushers at the 9:00 a.m. service, where she enjoys interacting with the children as she hands out coloring supplies.  

Ushering also provides an opportunity to observe the congregation.  “As an usher, I really get to see the diversity of All Souls…and rejoice in it,” Ilona said.  “I look forward to the Sundays I serve.”

For Mike Heilig and his youngest son, Marshall, ushering was a way to foster their father/son bond.  “He’s been ushering with me since he was seven, and now he’s eleven,” Mike said.

At first, Marshall used to follow his dad around, but he gradually learned the routine and has become an accomplished usher in his own right.  “He can do the whole job on his own,” Mike said.

From Marshall’s perspective, he likes being able to walk around and not stay seated in the pews.  “I also like having jobs in the service and ringing the Posey Bell,” Marshall said.

First and foremost, all the ushers I interviewed stressed their role in welcoming newcomers and helping them feel that they belong.  All Souls attracts numerous visitors, partly because of new residents and also due to the constant influx of tourists in Asheville.  Many folks are curious about the church designed by Richard Morris Hunt and where George Vanderbilt’s daughter was married.  Offering a heartfelt welcome is everyone’s responsibility, but ushers occupy a unique role.   

Babie Strobel, who ushers and also coordinates the usher schedule, stressed that the ushers at All Souls have formed a collegial group.  “Ushers trade around and support each other.  There’s flexibility in the system.”  She summed up the responsibility, “For many people new to All Souls, ushers are the first people they meet.  We are like the hosts and hostesses of God’s house.”

There are currently openings on the usher roster, and parishioners are encouraged to volunteer.

Next time you’re in church, speak to an usher, a member of the clergy, or call the cathedral office (274- 2681) for more information about becoming a welcoming usher.