Pews – What good are they?
The young seminarian could not help but make fun of the pews. There are eighteen of them all together, nine rows separated by an aisle down the center. Made of good solid hardwood with a blondish coloring, the old fashioned seats need some tending to but otherwise they do their job. Two generations of Christians have taken their accustomed and cherished places to worship God in those very pews. Have they outgrown their usefulness?
My young friend would never have pews in his church. No, he would arrange things where people could see and talk to one another without craning their necks. His idea was to employ either a square or circle configuration. This is how it is done now, he informed me. Pews have been out a long time now I guess.
I nodded and smiled thinking maybe he was right. I’m older now and not as up on the trends. Maybe we are Miller Avenue Baptist Church of Mill Valley, California have not moved along with the times and our failure to adapt contributed to our having a rather smallish congregation.
In defense however, I pointed to the young man that in our lovely fellowship hall, we call it Spangler Hall after the father and son who built it back in the early 1950s, we have several arrays of couches, not new ones of course, but serviceable. Here Sunday after Sunday our church family enjoys a very nice lunch together and often spends hours being in and enjoying each other’s company. Couches okay, the pews, well, he was sure they would have to go in any case.
The seminarian never came back again, probably because of the pews; still I could not help but think about what he said. Pews – what good are they really?
During the hay days of the Jesus People Movement, 1967 to 1972, we Jesus Freaks rarely saw the inside of an actual church building, rather we were on the streets, in the parks, at the beach, on a hillside, by a river, or a bay, in homes, and we worshipped God all right. Buildings with pews were what the old folks had and it was boring and lame, or so we thought. Early on in my ministry I was considered a real innovator; here I was though thinking the pews may be a problem. So I began to wonder whether it was my duty to ask the congregation to do away with them.
After that thought ‘I woke up’ so to speak. Wait a minute here; I may be old but I have not lost my good sense. What is it that we are doing in our Sunday morning services anyway? With that question things started coming back into focus for me. Deep down I knew that we are to worship God first and foremost. If I have to be watched by and watch the people all around me, I will be distracted and have trouble turning my eyes on Jesus. But in the pews I can see the communion table, which reminds me of the broken body and shed blood of Jesus; the candles on that table are burning, which remind me of the call to prayer; the pulpit, where the Gospel of Christ is presented; and the cross behind that, and I can think again of the cost of my salvation. Then, too, the words of the expositor, preacher, worship leader, and choir concentrate my thoughts on my Lord and Savior – and this goes on in front of me, right in front of the pews. Yes, people are all around me, and there will be plenty of time for fellowship following, yet my heart’s desire is to think about my God, both who He is and what He has done, at the appointed time of worship.
If the pews went, what else might be considered fuddy duddy? Maybe the piano? What about the cross? After all, that old rugged cross, it might offend someone. The organ, we haven’t had an organist in ages anyway; I suppose it ought to go. Communion table; who even understands what that is all about. Yep, it will be better to go along with what is new and be considered cool by the young crowd. That way we would be on the cutting edge. Wow. Just think.
Nope, the pews are staying.