Space, church seating, and tradition

Was in an interesting discussion the other day, talking about traditions of space in a church’s history. OK, we were talking about why people sit in the same pew year after year, even if that means sitting in a spot that is isolated from others.

When I was growing up, we always sat in the front section, toward the left. It was exciting when I was old enough to sit in the front middle with the rest of the youth group. After leaving for college, I would sit with the other university students on the right side of the auditorium whenever I visited.

At some point, my parents began sitting in the back. My dad had some health issues and would sometimes need to get up during the service. And you could park closer to the exit nearest that back section.

I was always a visitor when we sat in the back section. Not just because we were in the back, but that was part of it. It was a reminder that the congregation was no longer exactly the same as when I was growing up. Others of my parents’ friends had also rotated to the back. Almost no one sat where they did when I was young.

If you’re waiting for a deep theological point to be made, I don’t have one. A practical point would be to not make assumptions about why people sit where they do. And also, respect the fact that for many, where they sit has a deeper meaning than their mere proximity to the pulpit area.

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