When I was a child, my mother and I would always sit in the same pew. I am certain she was being strategic in this location for various reasons.
Foremost was that she could see me from the choir loft and give me “the look” if I was not behaving.
Second, we were seated near her friends. From her perch in the choir loft, she could send signals to her friends that it was all right to discipline me on her behalf. I got away with nothing during church services, not even bathroom breaks during the sermon.
Where people choose to sit in the pews often reveals something about them.
Some enjoy sitting on the end of the pew for the leg room or the quick exit to the restroom. Others sit squarely in the middle, proud they are not on the ends, having to stand for each person to slip in or out of the pew.
Then, we have the optimum pew vantage points, for the best view of the chancel, choir, organist or preacher — it is all about the view.
We also have those who sit according to sound levels, as some areas are louder or softer than others.
Last, there are hot spots and cold spots as the church’s air conditioning struggles to keep up with the demand.
I’m sure each of us has our own reason for why we sit where we sit and once the perfect location is found, we don’t vary from it. We sit in the same spot every time we come to worship.
I have even heard of church fundraisers where a plaque can be placed on a favorite pew with your name engraved upon it.
In the event a stranger is sitting in our spot, it causes a moment of distress, to ponder the everlasting question, “If I can’t sit there, where will I sit?”
Some, I am told, will ask the stranger to move because it is their pew, even pointing out the plaque with their name on it. Others who are not so demanding, since it is the house of mercy and grace, wander around looking for another seat like a child trying to find their parents in a crowded sanctuary.
Throughout the service, due to the new vantage point, the sound difference and the temperature, we find ourselves discombobulated and disconnected from any of the worship experience. As we leave, we mutter to ourselves that we must arrive earlier next Sunday to guarantee that we get OUR SEAT.
It makes my heart leap when I see a person gladly giving up their seat for a guest, or perhaps a person who would benefit from sitting at the end of the pew. It is a gracious thing we do to put aside our wants for the needs of another. But we are creatures of habits, aren’t we?
Even to this day, I can tell by the empty pew spots who is absent from church services that day. My heart breaks when I see the empty spot of a member who recently passed. It is a void in our worship family.
As many are watching services online, I miss their presence as we worship.
Just as a fair warning for those watching online, someone may be sitting in your pew.