Growing up in an African American church one of the first things you learn as a child is to respect the ushers. When you were doing anything that might not have been acceptable you had one eye for the usher suits. As kids would we liked to play pranks and giggle and chew gum and fall asleep all things that would get you a quick wrap on the knuckles with thee back end of the church fan. In black church’s in the United States have many auxiliaries, departments, committees and boards. These are the arms and legs of the church, they enable the church to carry out its mission. This includes attending to the needs of the people, spreading the gospel and church administration.
While you may not find the same auxiliary’s at all church’s there is not one church where you will not find an Usher board. This is a ministry of the church that even a new comer can become a part of. Next to the preacher and the musicians this is the most visible ministry in any church. In a black church the Usher is the first person a visitor will meet. They seat the congregation, help members in distress and maintain order. They are essentially the church police force. The usher suits are their uniform of office and most include pristine white gloves.
The usher suits has to be pristine at all times. It is a matter of church pride, at most churches the ushers have two separate suits one in white and one in black. They wore the white in summer and the black in winter. Other churches may use different colored usher suits but they all insist on the white gloves as part of the uniform. These are the churches gatekeepers, they meet and greet all who enter the sanctuary, ushers are the first impression a person gets of a church and most take this service very seriously.
Usher suits come in a variety of sizes and are also made to fit children. A church will have a male usher board, a women’s usher board and a junior usher board. Each group takes on the duties on their assigned Sundays. The junior ushers range in age from 6-18 and they too are trained to work as efficiently as the adults. It is a way for them to learn church and civic duty as well as leadership and discipline.