Do you ever wonder, as I do, if certain Church ministries will go dormant and die? In the recent past, we saw a brief resurgence in the role of commentator. The commentator at liturgy was supposed to explain things to people as the liturgy progressed. Sit now. Stand now. Sing now. Sit because of this. Stand because of that. Sing because we tell you to.
Thank goodness we have evolved from that in large part. The deacon is still in the rubrics to give directions at times. I like when the deacon just gestures the direction to stand or kneel. No words necessary.
In my current parish another ministry seems to be entering a fallow period: hospitality minister. It’s been difficult to fill the roster this semester. My scheduling guru told me he had a choice between scheduling a number of people almost every week or leaving large swaths of weekend evening Masses blank. The software, he told me, could decline to schedule people on consecutive weekends for the same ministry. Do it, I told him.
We wondered if HM’s being on duty every week was a discouraging factor. I don’t know that it is, but I also knew that weekly Massgoers could make the determination themselves if they wanted to pitch in as needed handing out hymnals from our racks and passing the collection baskets.
It was another campus ministry at which I served that did away with ushers entirely. Small baskets were clipped at the ends of the pews. During the preparation of gifts, each basket was passed down its row. The person on the end came toward the altar and emptied the money and envelopes into the bigger collection basket.
Getting back to the present, what if people feel well-greeted and welcomed as they come to church? I’ve not heard the usual suburban complaints about cold, unwelcome liturgies at my new place. What if the function of people greeting and welcoming is already happening by the ideal minister of hospitality: the entire parish? Books can be picked up and put away by adults. Bulletins can be left on tables near the entrance and inner doorways. One basket could be kept at the end of every pew. As long as the whole parish was doing its job welcoming and greeting newcomers, other members, and visitors, would I really need a full schedule?
Has anybody else phased out ushers?