United Methodist Communications (the official news organization of The United Methodist Church recently published an article on that time-honored tradition of claiming your own pew and sitting there week after week. The article can be found here, and brings to mind several important questions:
- Do you sit in the same place every week?
- Is it possible that this keeps you locked in one perspective?
- How do you respond when others sit in your “spot,” or when you see someone take over your neighbor’s “spot?”
- Is it possible to be truly welcoming if we’ve claimed our seats?
In not-too-distant church history (think 17th through 19th centuries) churches had “box pews” installed as in the image here from Old North Church (the famous church from Paul Revere’s midnight ride). Note the box pews and the way that small groups of people – usually families – were separated from one another.
I toured Old North Church a couple of years ago on a choir tour with a youth group. The guide told us that people would pay for their box, and that the amount that was paid was directly related to the position of the box pew! So if you couldn’t afford much, you may end up toward the back or behind a column. You might end up with the riff-raff. And if you were rich, you could end up with a box near the important people. It was a status symbol!
Do we think of our seats in church as a kind of status symbol? It’s funny to me that those who paid for their box pews were honored to pay more and sit near the front. Where does everyone sit now? It seems like the front rows are always vacant.
My invitation to you is to consider changing your seats and changing your perspectives. Sit near people that you haven’t worshiped with before, and experience church in a different way. And be sure to welcome those who sit with you!