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John Ben Shepperd: Address to National United Church Ushers of America

July 25, 1954

Address to National United Church Ushers of America (San Antonio, Texas)

I am very happy to have this opportunity to talk to so many of my fellow American and fellow Christians from all over the United States, and to welcome you to the State of Texas. This is the second time your organization has held its national convention in our state; the first time was in 1940, when you met in Dallas. We’re flattered that you have come back again so soon.

Yours is a very unusual association, and one of which you should be very proud. It is an organization of deep significance to our country. It probably does not give you a feeling of particular importance to be a church usher—but how many people in our country today are doing what you’re doing? How many American can be depended upon to be in church regularly every Sunday, extending the hand of friendship in the name of the Savior to the strangers within their gates How many American had rather do that than to be found every Sunday at the clubhouse, extending a golf stick or a fishing pole? How many had rather be as the Psalmist said “doorkeepers in the house of their God” than to piddle away their time and their country’s future in frivolous play on the one day God reserves for worship?

Our country needs more people who use the family Bible as often as the family car. Show me a church-going Christian and I’ll show you a good citizen and a patriot. Religion and patriotism are like a man’s two hands. We ought to clasp them together in worship and put them together to the task of creating a better, more Christian country. But too often the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. There is something wrong when a man’s belief in God does not impel him to do the things that make his country a better, stronger and greater nation. In many American homes the Holy Bible and the Congressional Record lie side by side on the living room table, but few there are who can cite chapters and verses.

We need more people today who know the meaning of the phrase “God and country.” Too many of us nowadays seem to think that God and country are as far removed from each other as the prayer chapel is removed from the smoke-filled back room where they say presidents are made and unmade in every election. And yet, oddly enough, it is fashionable among Christians and non-Christians alike to speak of God and country in one breath, as though they were inseparable.

Sometimes we go too far. Sometimes we put the emphasis on country instead of on God, as if to say that because Christianity is allowed to thrive under our Constitution, God therefore owes a lot to Uncle Sam. That is wrong. God doesn’t owe Uncle Sam anything. But you and I owe a lot to God for giving us our country, and you and I owe a lot to our country for giving us the right to choose our own God, and to worship Him according to our own conscience.

For that reason it is good to talk to an organization like yours, made up of people who are not merely tipping their hats to church and waving their handkerchiefs at the institutions of Democracy, and who are not dropping their kids off at Sunday School on their way to the amusement park.

It is symbolic that the National United Ushers Association of America was created in 1919. That was the year in which the national Communist Party was first recognized as a real threat to our country. In that year it was outlawed temporarily by the U.S. Attorney General, and was driving underground and almost killed. Its membership dropped from 80,000 to 2500.

And while the Communist Party was thus dwindling away, this Ushers’ Association was gaining strength—an organization of people who have resisted communism tooth and nail. Undoubtedly, the Negro people have been a great disappointment to the Communists. A Negro friend of mine told me why. He said, [“]Communism hates God, and the Negro people will never forsake God.” The Negroes of the United States have steadfastly resisted every form of subversion and un-Americanism.

It is also symbolic that this organization was born in Philadelphia, the birthplace of our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence. As if inspired by those great documents, the National United Ushers Association every year awards four scholarships through its Speakers Bureau to worthy boys and girls. This is one of the most constructive activities you could undertake. Any organization that looks to the training and education of its young people, bringing them up in the Christian religion and sending them forth with a head full of knowledge and a heart full of faith, is performing an invaluable service that cannot be measured until that day when all the deeds of men are weighed in the Master’s hand.

It is also significant and inspiring that this organization is to unite all Ushers’ Boards and Ladies’ Auxiliaries of all Christian Churches into one grand organization, and to promote a closer Christian fellowship and social relationship among them. You can measure the greatness of a nation by the position it grants to its women. The freest and most progressive are those in which woman stands at man’s side instead of at his feet. When the Lord created Eve from a rib out of Adam’s side, I don’t think He intended for her to be treated as a side issue.

The Texas Church Ushers are very proud to be host to the National Association at this 35th Annual Convention, and doubly proud to be a member of it. The Texas Church Ushers acted in the Texas tradition when they maintained their association as an independent organization for ten years after its founding in 1926, until they joined the national fraternity in 1936. As you know Texas was an independent Republic for ten years from the time it won its freedom in 1836 until 1846 when it became part of the greatest country in the world. Just as Texas came into the Union knowing from experience what it meant to fight for its liberty and maintain it, the Texas Church Ushers joined the National Association knowing what it meant to start from scratch and build itself into an outstanding association of Christian workers that has won for itself admiration and respect.

As you meet here in historic San Antonio, home of the foremost shrine of Texas independence, I sincerely wish you every success. And as you return to your respective homes throughout the country, I send with you my prayer that the  heat of raging battles and exploding hydrogen bombs in other parts of the world may be reduced in significance by the warmth of the Christian handshakes which you give at the church doors of America.

Please note: The views expressed in these speeches were those of John Ben Shepperd, and do not necessarily represent the views of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute or the University of Texas Permian Basin.