When my wife and I were living in Dallas, Texas, for a couple of years in the late 60’s and early 70’s we were seeking to find a good church that we could attend. Just for the experience, we first visited the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas, pastored then by W.A. Criswell, a mega church before churches were called by that name. We visited on Sunday morning and on Monday evening there were people visiting from the church wanting to get to know us and wanting to tell us more about their church! We were pretty impressed. The small church we finally joined, just blocks from where we lived in east Dallas, an independent, fundamental Baptist Church, was pastored by an older man who, with J. Frank Norris and T.T. Shields, had been one of the founders of a seminary in the Ft. Worth area. He was an old-fashioned Bible expositor, the kind of preacher one could listen to for hours and want more. I had indicated to him on several occasions that we were interested in joining the church and that we’d appreciate a visit from him to get to know more about the ministry. That visit never happened. It was a church of no more than a hundred on any given Sunday, and the only person that made any attempt to be friendly to this young couple with two small girls was the usher/greeter who would give us a big smile, a hearty handshake and a bulletin every time we entered. I think his name was “Bucky” but though I may have forgotten his name I have never, 50 years later, forgotten his warm welcome and welcomed greeting. As a student preparing for ministry, I thought to myself that to have an usher like that would be a pastor’s dream come true.
Fast forward twenty-three years and I would find myself thirteen years into my pastorate in Indianapolis, Indiana when one Sunday in early January a couple joined our church. His name was Roy and his wife’s Thetta. It would not be long before Roy would volunteer to help in any way he could; and it just so happened that we needed help in our ushering department at that time, and he went right to work, assisting in any place needed. He never stopped until a few months ago when cancer sidelined him and a few weeks ago God relieved Roy of his post as head-usher here and called him to his eternal rest. His works truly do follow him.
Roy grew up on a farm just east of Indianapolis and his life, before he joined the United States Marine Corps, was not an easy one. His father was a tough disciplinarian and life consisted mainly of chores. It probably did not get any easier when Roy volunteered to become a Marine, but it was different and he ended up serving as a military policeman. He went strictly by the book and was all business and, his term having been completed, moved back to Indy. He and his wife came to our church from another church of like faith and I suppose Roy was in his mid-50’s when I became his pastor. He was, in fact, the usher that was in the back of my mind that day in Dallas when I breathed a sigh in my soul with the thought that “happy would be the pastor who had an usher like Bucky.” Well, in 1992, I became that happy pastor.
Roy was a right-hand man. He was meticulous in attention to detail. He dressed every service as though he were possibly going to meet the President. He arrived at church an hour early to begin to execute his duties, opening up all doors, turning lights on in every meeting room, setting thermostats to an appropriate degree, moving clocks forward an hour in the spring and backwards an hour in the fall on the specified Sunday, putting Sunday School reports in each teacher’s room so that they could fill them out and have them ready for him to pick up and tally; making sure the large flag that flew out front was not frazzled and if appropriate setting it at half-mast when there was occasion to do so; putting a glass of water on the pulpit for the preacher, organizing an ushering crew for each service, ringing bells indicating the conclusion of the Sunday School hour and a hundred other tasks. On the rare occasions that Roy had to miss (he never traveled out of town on Sundays) we would divide his jobs up and assign two or three men to do what Roy would normally do. All that he did was with a cheerful spirit, a warm smile and hearty hand shake and his presence was ubiquitous throughout the congregation though in the most positive way. He loved to talk and would not hesitate to show you a picture of a fish that he had hauled in from some lake the past week.
To this pastor Roy was more than a co-laborer, he was a brother indeed. His service was selfless and always above and beyond. He was not deeply schooled in theological matters but his faith was genuine and his works were extraordinary. For twenty-seven years I was privileged to serve alongside of a man that exemplified the servant’s heart and a totally committed life of faithful service to His Master. Roy took his job as seriously as one could, believing that for Christ and His Church only his best would do. One Sunday it was discovered that someone, as a practical joke, had slipped a gold fish into the glass of water that Roy had placed for me on the pulpit. When he became aware of that, it shook him to the core. In fact, he, for the first and only time, was not in the next service. I quickly paid a visit to Roy and realized that he was devastated by the thought that he had failed in his work and was not worthy to continue on as lead usher. I assured him that he had not failed and that the incident was not meant in a mean-spirited way and that he should report for duty next service. We prayed and he was back on the job the next time the church met and that was the only time I ever had to exhort Roy to “keep on keeping on.”
So, Saturday last, friends, family and church members packed out our fellowship hall to celebrate the life of a servant of Christ who in flesh for thirty years, Sunday after Sunday, year after year, embodied the Biblical pattern of servanthood. All who knew him loved him. His kind come along only once in a while and I will ever be grateful that for the bulk of my ministry as a pastor God gave me the privilege of rubbing elbows with and learning from a man who never attended Bible School one day of his life, but lived out in real time what the Bible teaches about faithfulness, dedication, dependability. I will ever be grateful to God for sending to our church our very own version of “Bucky.” We have long since forgotten the messages of that powerful Bible expositor in Dallas, but I have never forgotten the smile, the welcome, the handshake of a Godly layman who was at his station, on time and in place, helping to prepare the hearts of those who would be sitting under the sound of the preacher, having received a welcome that made them feel as though they had come to the right place on that day.
“Moreover, it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.” (I Cor. 4:2)