Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sacred Sunday

The Usher Board

Photo: (left to right) Unidentified lady, Kattie Higgs Haskins, and Mary Johnson

My great Aunt Mary Johnson (1927-1986) was a member of the usher board of the Little Mt. Zion Church in White Plains, NY. She had been raised in the Union Chapel Holy Church in Ridgeway, NC where her parents and paternal aunts and uncles were founding members of the church. As a young woman, she moved to White Plains, NY where her paternal Aunt Pennie Johnson Higgs lived and had founded Little Mt. Zion Holy Church. Aunt Pennie also had been a founding member of Union Chapel Holy Church in Ridgeway, NC.

Ushers serve as greeters and are the first impression of a church service. They are responsible to ensuring that parishioners are properly seated and in some cases escort them to their seat. Church ushers also hand out church programs or if these are available. If a church visitor feels insulted by the attitude of any usher, it may influence his/her opinion of the church as a whole and may even affect their ability to be inspired by the sermon or music. Therefore it was important for Aunt Mary and the other ushers to always be pleasant and greet parishioners with a smile.

I grew up in a church affiliated with the United Holy Church of America, Inc. during the 1960s to early 1980s in Newport News, VA. Aunt Mary’s church in New York was also affiliated with the same church organization. During this time, female ushers in my church typically wore white nurse uniforms and nurse shoes, white gloves, and a badge that with the word “Usher.” Nurse shoes during that day came in various styles usually with a soft sole. A lot of the shoes I remember had shoe strings instead of a loafer style. Some ushers also wore white shoes with a little heel like the one that Aunt Mary and the two ushers in this photo are wearing. The sash that Aunt Mary and the other two ladies are wearing a sash may not have been part of their normal uniform accessory, but may have been used for a special occasion such as usher an anniversary. The sash reads as follows:

Usher Board
Little Mt. Zion
United Holy Church
White Plains, NY
I do not know the identity of the lady in the left of the photo; however the lady in the middle was Kattie Higgs Haskins, a paternal first cousin of Aunt Mary. Her sash indicates that she was “President” of the Usher Board. Kattie was born in North Carolina and was a daughter of Aunt Pennie Johnson Higgs, the founder of Little Mt. Zion and a sister of my great grandfather, George Johnson.

On this Sacred Sunday, I salute Aunt Mary and all the ushers in my family of the past, present, and future!

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