Sherri Gragg

Juggler of words and children…collector of pottery shards

Church Pews

Church pews.  I miss church pews.  I didn’t even recognize their absence in my life until a couple of Sundays ago when I

photo courtesy of Larry Mize

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem  photo courtesy of         Larry Mize

visited an older house of worship where church pews still stood sentry- row after row awaiting The Faithful.  I sat down, and inhaled the old familiar scent of oak and varnish.  I ran my hand along the soft, worn wood and a desperate homesickness gripped my heart.

For so many years now I have attended more…progressive congregations. Hymnbooks disappeared and were replaced by flawless media displays.  The hymns themselves faded into the background, and new worship music took their place.  The final tones of the organ drifted away, yielding the stage to a electric guitars and drums. Stained glass became passe.  (Where did all that stained glass go?) Flashing lights and fog machines took their place.

No one forced this form of worship on me.  I chose it, and there is much to be valued in it.  I love the freedom of worship I have found.  I hold closely the hope that the “new church” is less intimidating for those who have never before entered a house of worship.

But sometimes, I miss liturgy.  I miss the hymns of my childhood that taught me about God’s faithfulness.  I miss beams of sunlight filtered through stained glass, and silence before a holy God.

And I miss church pews.

I know they are less comfortable than stadium seats. I understand they are less versatile too. They don’t have cup holders for Venti Starbucks cups, just those tiny receptacles for communion cups and those now useless hymnbook racks.

But isn’t there something precious about their limitations, something holy in their simplicity? When we sink down into a pew we know where we are, and why we have come.  Church pews give us permission to leave the outside world behind for a moment to focus on God alone.

They bring us together too.  Pews speak to communality, togetherness; there are no dividers between us there.

I am not quite ready to give up my modern church.  I love the people, the worship, the message.  I love all of it’s wonderful ministries.

Fortunately, there is a small historical house of worship near my home where the doors are always open.  A little more often, I think, I will pay it a visit.  I will leave my phone in the car, and my Starbucks too.  I will enter the holy silence as beams of sunlight filter through stained glass. Then I will sink down into sweet comfort of a hard church pew.  It will be just like coming home.

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