A sports columnist once pondered whether sports could exist without fans. Certainly, professional sports needs fans. But I’m wondering today about fan-atics – people who have extreme enthusiasm for their team, their town, and sometimes for the players themselves. When I think of fanatics, I think of Raiders fans who dress up in wild costumes and attend every game (regardless of how well the team is playing). One Chargers fanatic dresses up like a lightning bolt, regardless of how hot the day might be. Fanatics also number among the season ticket holders who have attended every game since the formation of the team though, I suppose, not all season ticket holders are fanatics.
Fanatics spice up the experience of watching the game but they can also destroy the image of a town and ruin a good ball game with foul-mouthed comments and unruly—and often drunken – behavior. Many of us have heard stories about fanatics in Philadelphia who booed Santa Claus and even the all-time great baseball player, Ted Williams, was booed in Boston. In locker rooms around the Pac 12 collegiate conference, it is well known how nasty the home town fans at BYU can be. On the flip side, I’ve written before about how courteous Chargers fans are. At a Monday night football game at Qualcomm Stadium, I was standing in a long bathroom line behind a Chargers fan and a Broncos fan. When a space opened up, the Chargers fan invited the Broncos fan to go into the bathroom first.
The Church has fanatics, too. You may have heard of the term, “Jesus freaks,” usually ascribed to people who are so fired up about the Gospel, they tend to overlook common courtesies. These fanatics can be so unruly and black and white in their presentation of the Gospel, that they actually turn people away from the faith. And then there is the church that protests funerals for members of the armed services and hold up signs that I don’t want to repeat. Their fanaticism is going a long way from Jesus’ command of love.
The Episcopal Church has its fanatics, too, but thankfully they are not as visible as the others described. They are like the decades-long season ticket holder who attends every Sunday service, rain or shine; church fanatics teach Sunday School, serve in leadership positions, or are passionate about caring for the poor.
Some of my favorite Episco-fanatics are the ushers. The word “usher” comes from the Latin root “ostium” (sometimes spelled “ustium”) which means a door or the mouth of a river. They are the keepers of the doors and overseers of the mouth of the river of life. The fanaticism of ushers is marked by zeal to arrive early, prepare the doorway, welcome and assist all who enter, and then clean-up and close the doors when the service is over. We might call ushers the iconic-Episco-fanatics, the alpha and the omega of every service.
I wonder: where would the Church be without its ushers and other fan-atics. How could we serve without their fanaticism for Christ and welcome to all.