One of my “too many” hobbies is woodworking. Lately, I’ve been building benches. Most of them are three-to-four-feet long, but last week I received an unusual request. A lady wanted to know if I could build a twelve-footer for her, with a back, and armrests on each end. My first thought was that would be an awfully-long bench. My first inclination was to say no. Then, after giving it some thought, and sketching out a drawing, I agreed. I love a good challenge. After I finished, I stared at my latest project and thought, “That thing looks like an old-fashioned church pew.” Then I thought about how much things have changed since those old days.
Much about the modern-day church is quite different from the church of my younger years. Where we sit is one of the changes. Actually, I should say what we sit on, because many worshippers still sit in the same place they have sat in for the past 134 years! Well, maybe not quite, but maybe their great-grandparents sat there, and it has passed down through the generations. They are like the tree planted by waters, they shall not be moved! We might get by with changing the music or the Bible translation, but don’t sit in someone else’s seat. One man was told by a little lady that we would have to move, because he was sitting in her husband’s seat. He apologized and did as she asked. Later, he noticed that her husband never came in to take his seat. After the service he inquired if her husband was okay. The lady replied, “Why, what do you mean? He’s been in heaven for fifteen years!”
Where we sit may not have changed, but what we sit on quite possibly has. It seems that pews are slowly fading away and being replaced by chairs. I do see a few advantages to this newer trend. Pews are a little harder to get into, especially since they begin to fill up from the ends, rather than the middle. Remember, people don’t like to move, so the late comers have to step on toes and trip over knees and purses on the floor. What is especially embarrassing is tripping over all those obstacles and landing in someone’s lap!
Individual seats are also a little more comfortable than pews. Of course, modern pews are more comfortable than the old-style ones. They were usually hard wood, with no cushions or padding. It was terribly hard to fall asleep on those things during the pastor’s sermons; however, some managed to do the seemingly impossible. Back in those days, preachers were much louder than today’s version. Even if you did manage to fall asleep on those pews, the preacher would hit one of those loud points and wake you right up!
Some of those old-unpadded pews were made with several long-narrow boards, on which we parked ourselves. If we shifted our weight the wrong way, those boards could bind together and pinch the sitter like a crab on a beach. That was painful enough to even cause Sister Scowl to shoot up out of her pew and shout out loud. Back in the day, folks might think she had moved by the Spirit and revival might break out, when in reality, she had only been moved by a pinching pew!
I’ve reached the conclusion that no matter where we sit, what we sit on, what we sing, or how we sing it, if we worship God, that’s what matters most. Do try to stay awake, however, and if the pews are older, watch out for pinches!
— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Tuesday edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.