This past Sunday I went to a church where a friend of mine was recently appointed senior pastor. He is a great communicator but I could not get over the pews! At our church, Lockerbie Central United Methodist, we were able to remove the pews after a few years of bickering. It allowed our sanctuary to become a much more welcoming and interesting place. Anyways, I heard a story from a biblical storyteller that pretty much sums up the problem with church pews.
The story goes like this.
A declining United Methodist church in the Baltimore area got a new pastor who wanted to shake things up. His idea? Get rid of the church pews.
In my opinion, exiling the pews from the sanctuary is probably the best thing that any church can do. They simply interfere with community, especially in smaller churches. Unfortunately, the pews outnumber the attendees. Anyways, I like Dan Kimball says here about the “oddness of church pews.”
It seems like an odd thing to invite someone into our church “family”, bring them into a room and make them sit for over an hour on benches looking at the back of heads staring at the front of the room. I don’t think our own families would have a meeting this way. I am trying to imagine Jesus and His disciples having the last supper meal while sitting in rows of pews.
Back to that pastor in Baltimore.
As plans were advancing to get rid of the pews, the pastor got a threatening letter from someone. The letter said something to the effect that the pews would be removed only over his–the letter writer’s– dead body.
That next Sunday in worship service, the pastor suggested something radical. It might be best for the congregation to take down the cross that was in front of the sanctuary. The pastor suggested putting a pew there instead. His reasoning? “It looks like we have members of this church who will not die for the cross but will die for the pews.”