Jan 25, 2010

Posted by in Culture | 6 Comments

Three Reasons Why Pews Are Better Than Chairs

I’m no interior designer, and I’m not an architect either, but I am willing to boldly declare my position on one aspect of church design. Pews are better than chairs.

1. They’re better for prayer! Praying in church isn’t easy – there are lots of potential distractions – but it is worth the effort to try to focus. What better way to quiet your heart before worship begins than with a bit of silent prayer? When I step into church and see others kneeling in quiet prayer before the service begins, I am reminded to give thanks myself for the awesome gift that God has given us in His Son.  Sure, you can pray seated in a chair, but body language does matter; how we place our bodies influences the way we think and feel, and communicates to others as well. With nice, solid wooden pews, you can rest your hands or arms on the back of the pew in front of you while you pray – not like with chairs, where you have to stay seated (I wouldn’t want to take the risk of accidentally tipping over the chair in front of me, or bumping someone, by resting my hands on it while I’m praying.)

2. There’s more room – for your stuff. The space between people, which would be the space between chairs if you were sitting in chairs, is perfect for setting down hymnals, bulletins, hymn inserts, and the liturgical booklet to have within easy reach during the service. (Yes, I’m Anglican. We do like our booklets.) Where would you put all these things, if you were seated in chairs?

Plus, it’s really cute to see the little kids sitting on the floor, using the pew seats as tables while they work on the activities in the kids’ worship bulletins. (Also, sleepy little kids can lie down on them.)

But most importantly, the biggest reason why I think pews are much better than chairs is:

3. You can squish more people in.

With pews, you can make room – you can scootch over to let one more person in, or two… and with cooperation from the rest of the people in the pew, you can squeeze in an additional three, or four, especially if some of them are little kids. Pews encourage people to share space, but you can’t do that with chairs – a chair is either mine, or it’s not. Sorry, you can’t sit with me!

We’re so used to sterility, to not touching each other, that it can be strange to sit so close to someone, especially someone you don’t know. But if we’re brothers and sisters in Christ, shouldn’t we be willing to sit right next to each other, even touch?

Instead of finding a sterile, unoccupied chair – not bothering anybody, nobody noticing – being willing to have your brothers and sisters in Christ give up a few inches of seat space here and there so that you can join them. Having everyone scoot over to make a little more room when Mom & Dad come back from the nursery with the kids. Making a little more room for that single person who doesn’t have a family group to come in with en masse.

Three Reasons Why Pews Are Better Than Chairs - praying hands in pewSpeaking as a single person whose “church family” truly is my family, small things can mean a lot. Is there anything so welcoming, so truly family-like, as to walk into a full church, look around for a seat, and have someone cheerfully wave you over, making room for you?

Making room for you in church. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

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  1. Point 3 is very appealing! Although I don’t think pews either make or prevent this from happening. People make community and not furniture.

    As far as furniture goes, I think the best of both venues is the “pew stacker,” a chair that locks tightly together to create a pew like effect.

    The advantages are

    1) they function like pews when linked

    2) they function like chairs when unlinked and create flexible space for churches where space is limited

    3) they’re easier on the church budget, and

    4) they are less threatening to the unchurched who may have the tendency to associate pews negatively with established religion and not with the kind of community you describe in point 3.

    The sense of community in point 3 really is the goal that churches need to strive for no matter how they furnish their facility.

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