I recently finished yet another year as the lighting director for my church’s Christmas Cantata. It was not fun. At all. I reached an emotional state so bad I actually decided to quit after the first show and after some convincing from mom, just 2 hours before the next show, I decided to finish the weekend of hell.
I’ve always been one to hide behind the scenes. But I also like to do something that brings the show to life. The lighting spot was perfect. Nobody saw me and I could do my thing quietly.
I worked hard for these 3 years. I gave it my all. But I’m done. Doing these types of shows will bring stress, but what happened this year was beyond ridiculous. Our first rehearsal was a week before the actual event. One freaking week. I still hadn’t seen a script for the show, which was different enough that my previous scripts were outdated. The equipment I was going to use wasn’t even there for me to practice on but that’s really not a problem since the church rents it and doesn’t want to keep it around too long. Budget stuff.
The first time I touched the stuff was the first show. I had no practice with the choir, band, anything. And so of course I blew it. It’s bound to happen when you only have a week of rehearsals and really, I personally had no rehearsal; just my assistants. I was okay with that. I didn’t feel any type of way. I did the best I could and made notes for the next night.
Some folks, mainly from the production team, gave me grief about my mistakes. One example was I operate the spotlight. For most songs, there was a soloist who I put my spotlight on. Welp, one song had a duet. Now, before the show, I was going over the script with the other directors and I was told to put my spot light on the duo. Little did I know, they would be on the opposite side of the stage from each other. It basically came to the point where I just left the spotlight off. Now, all of a sudden, it’s my fault because I left them in the dark? Again, this is the first time I’ve seen this stuff unfold.
Stuff like that happened all night and I basically quit towards the end of the show. The next night, I pretty much was mentally checked out. I didn’t want to be there. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
That happened for the last time. The church will have to find someone who doesn’t mind dealing with stress. I am done. Find somebody who will run all of the cords around the building and make sure everything works. Find somebody who is willing to drive to Home Depot and get more supplies; sometimes out of my own pocket. Find somebody as organized as me.
And they will.
The job is not hard. It’s not rocket science. I really think anybody can do it with THE PROPER AMOUNT OF REHEARSAL TIME. I’m not full of myself. I don’t have the mindset of “Well I’m the only guy who can do it. They’re screwed without me”. They’ll live. They’ll be fine. And that’s why I don’t feel bad about calling it a day. They have a year to get it together. Plenty of time but f me they’ll probably screw things up again just like the last four years.
What does this have to do with church?
Well that night when I quit during the show (and when I say quit, I do mean that I stopped caring), I started thinking about other times that I’ve worked hard to no avail.
My goodness. Foodbank. You come every Wednesday. You are kind. You are nice. You help. And still no respect. Oh really? I guess I better not get too specific because people’s feelings would be hurt. All I know, I have grown tired of the disrespect I received since my first day in 2007. It’s like people take me for granted or something.
Nope. I don’t ask for a thank you. I don’t really look for it. But, there’s a difference between a lack of thanks and just complaining about one mistake vs all of the good I do. And again, this is going on for years. It’s not like I tried for a couple of months and I’m done. I like to stick things out through the tough times. But I have a limit for foolishness.
You get up 6 in the morning. You get dressed. You show up earlier than the guy with the key to the church. You set up the sanctuary. You make sure enough supplies are available so the ushers can do the best they can. And it means nothing. I’ve been an usher since I was 18.
Shortly after I became an usher, the church decided to make a second service. So we now had an 8am service and then our usual 10:30 service. And then it started. Ushers slowly dropped off one by one. At this point, the most ushers we get on a Sunday is 6. To be fully functional, we need 10-12.
So being so shorthanded, we have to make a priority list, if you will, of what needs to be done. Where are the most important places the usher is suppose be and the rest of the area just has to suffer.
That’s not my problem. My problem is that I feel the church has barely done anything to help us out. Go figure. We has the technology (I’m not trying to be funny here; we really do). We produce video announcements as well as give out flyers to update the congregation on what’s going on. Periodically, you will see an announcement asking for volunteers for certain ministries.
An usher’s job is to make sure the service runs smoothly and that people are comfortable. So, I would think it’s pretty important. I guess I’m wrong.
For a year now we’ve been asking for the church to make an announcement for us. And we don’t even get a “no”. We get a “well you can recruit”. Oh you think we’re just sitting around doing nothing? Hm? We’re not asking around? Please.
And then more people quit, including long time head ushers. I still haven’t finished the issues. The heads of the church not only helped us, but then they came around and expected us to do our job, even in a shorthanded situation. That’s the final straw with me. Instead of understanding that we just don’t have the people to do a job, you want us all to be Mr. Fantastic and stretch all over the place.
If the church doesn’t make an effort to help us out by getting more people (don’t get me started on equipment we still need), by June, I am out. Why June? Well, I am also an assistant teacher for my church’s Children Church. I alternate each month between ushering and teaching. January I return to ushering. Then March, then May. Children Church takes a summer break and June is the last month. So, then I would be ushering for the whole summer. But that won’t happen unless the church makes an effort.
I’m dedicated. They have me in training to be a head usher. I already do most of the work involved.
I need a break from breaking my back. There will come a day where I will arrive to church and sit down. And sit there until my wounds are healed. Call me weak. Call me selfish. I just don’t care. I’m not even going to play the “if you were in my shoes” card. I may not even usher until June. We’ll see how January goes.
I’m certainly not going to be lazy on the job. I either work 100% or 0%. I love my church and I love being a part of their various ministries.
In comparison, I mentioned I teach. In this area, everybody is supportive of each other. We help as much as we can. And there’s a level of appreciation. Not necessarily “thank you”, but just…you feel valued. I could go through the pains of foodbank and ushering if I thought people were thankful for the work I put in and appreciated the sacrifices I made.
While I served as lighting director, I encouraged my assistants. I didn’t whale on them for their mistakes. We only had a week of rehearsals. We did the best we could. If they were making silly mistakes and we had months of rehearsal, then yeah I’d be feeling some kind of way. Joe and Nia, they did a great job under the circumstances and I’m glad I picked them to help me.
I love to usher. Foodbank and the cantata are a done deal but I really love ushering and I really hope things can work out. But, I need a break.