By Zsana Hoskins,
Special to the AFRO
The National United Church Ushers Association of America (NUCUAA), a world renowned religious training organization, will be holding its annual national conference from July 31 to Aug 4 at the Hyatt Regency Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C. Local churches from across the city have been invited to participate in a fun-filled week that includes usher training and development, worship, fellowship and more.
“It’s a full week for us. We know that the Lord will be there because He has been invited. Our theme is ‘Usher’s Embracing Change and Growth Through Faith,’” said Charles Brown, NUCUAA national president.
Minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Hakeem Jeffries will be featured as this year’s keynote speaker. Charles H. Dorsey, from Chestertown, Md., and Elijah A. Hamilton, from Augusta, Ga., founded the organization in Philadelphia 104 years ago as members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“We’re just coming out of the pandemic so we’re looking forward to the school of ushering classes and we will have a good fellowship—events, good preaching and singing, just good ol’ time religion and coming together again,” said Linda Pates, director of the southern region and first national vice president for the organization.
The group is interdenominational and welcomes ushers from all backgrounds with training principles that encourage servants to help church guests get in the right frame of mind to prepare for worship. Over 800 seniors, young adults and junior ushers are expected to be in attendance.
“I am ultra excited about seeing all of the ushers, all my friends, and seeing the latest techniques that are going on. We have a drill team competition on Wednesday evening and I’m excited about that,” said Anthony Powell, western regional director.
Over the course of the last century, conferences have been hosted in major locations across the country including Los Angeles, New Jersey, Delaware and New York.
“We’re looking forward to having a much bigger crowd this year. Looking at my list from the Southern region, we have more people coming this year than we did last year, so that’s a plus,” said Pates.
Pates attended this convention 22 years ago and has been an active member ever since.
“It’s been wonderful. I started in 2000 and I began to become a part of the Southern region. I went down to my church, got on the bus, and the rest is history,” said Pates.
The week’s events feature a night of music with Patrick Lundy and the ministry of music with WHUR’s Jacquie Gales Webb serving as the Mistress of Ceremonies in addition to an outreach presentation for the organization’s Blake Vincent Star Fund, which is dedicated to pediatric cancer research.
“This organization does quite a bit of outreach. This year besides the Blake Vincent Payne Star Fund, we have done outreach to Rolling Fort, Miss., which was devastated by a tornado earlier this year,” said Brown.
The organization’s statement of purpose defines usher as those who “enlighten Ushers in Christian work and practice the Golden Rule – ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you;’ and to become a source of inspiration for doing greater things in Christianity.” Their teaching practices and principles stem from George T. Grier who designed the National Pin and wrote the Ushers Universal Manual and Handbook.
“We know that faith is the pinnacle of the Christian belief and we want to encourage everyone to focus on faith. Since the pandemic, our membership seemed to decrease because quite a few churches haven’t opened back up. But slowly they are. We’re encouraging people to keep the faith. There’s a reason for everything.” Brown expressed.
Pates and Powell both want the experience to feel like “a family reunion” for attendees. But they also stressed the importance of the usher training and techniques that will be taught at the conference.
“We have a universal method of ushering and I just hope that everybody can take their back to their own states and really focus in on that,” Powell said.
Outside of the classes and programming planned for the week, there will also be tours and outings planned for attendees to explore the Washington, D.C. area.
“We try to choose a city that they can come and enjoy the sights as well. D.C. has a lot to offer. That’s what we try to find so they can have a vacation as well as attend the classes,” said Pates.
To learn more about NUCUAA and membership, visit nationalchurchushers.org.