Monday, January 12, 2009

You're sitting in my pew

Yesterday we joined the church. Yep, the one we've called our "church-by-default" for seven months, living here in Small Town. Our kids have gone to VBS, youth group, sung in the children's choir, and we are all in Sunday School regularly.

Before we joined, though - just to exhaust all possibilities - over the past several months, we visited all the others in the area whose theology is even remotely akin to ours.

We learned quickly that visiting a church in Small Town is not like visiting a church in Big Suburb. For one thing, most of them have memberships under 100. So when we walk in - all seven of us, looking dazed and confused (stand up or sit down? shake hands or hug?) - we helped set records for attendance.

We learned there's just no way to "slip in" and "check things out." No matter how quiet and nonchalant we try to look, we make a scene. When we make our seat selection, we are aware of the whispering ("I wonder who they are?" or, "Oh, that's the family that bought the old Jones place," or "Are all those kids theirs?").

Mostly we are aware of this one: "You're sitting in my pew!"

Even at our old church in Big City, with a sanctuary that held 1500 and was comprised mostly of young families with children at home, even if you didn't have your "seat," still, most everyone had their "area." I regularly looked for my friends and the pillars of the congregation by where they "usually" sat.

Here in Small Town, even though the younger population is growing, the elderly still make up a large portion of church attenders. Not to mention most church buildings are on the Texas Registry of Historical Places. All those teethmarks on the backs of the pews? Cut by Grandpa, back when he was two. And he's been sitting there for seventy-five years. Everybody knows that.

Except, of course, that family of seven whose children don't want to go to yet another Sunday school and instead, just want to hang on Mom's clothing.

Oh, excuse me, sir. Is this your spot? We'll move!

Of course, not every church has pews. One church we visited had a sanctuary that seated about 80. We walked in, and wouldn't you know, the chairs were set up in SEVENS. I feverishly scanned the available seats. Panic was beginning to set in until I saw that we would be spared - this time - sitting in the front row. Instead, we got to take up the entire second row.

Another church we visited was a satellite of a larger church, and temporarily met in a school cafeteria. Each row had six chairs. Obviously, some people got to sit on laps.

After church yesterday, the whole family lined up in the front like a receiving line at a wedding, and the entire congregation came by to welcome us. I'm glad we waited to join, because we knew most of the folks who came by to shake our hands. Or hug us. Everyone was warm and kind, and it felt like home.

I bet it's because we didn't force the pew issue at this church. It's a bit larger than the others, with attendance around 200. Every Sunday since we started coming, we've avoided the pews in the main part of the sanctuary. We come in quietly, take our crew, and spread out in "our spot" in an overflow room with all the junior highers - on the back row.


Mommahen said...

Isn't it nice to find a place to serve with other believers? My pastor always says that if you want a good back row seat you better get to church early! That is certainly true for our smallish 200+ congregation, and we are all young folk!

Anonymous said...

Glad you guys found a "home". We recently became members of our church too. We moved in March, and checked out a few churches. Most of them around here are big so we had to eliminate the really big ones actually. And it seems like there are a lot of older folk around here too so we were quite limited as most of their services were very traditional. And people definitely noticed us too because we were usually the only young Chinese couple with a little kid. haha Hubby is leading worship now, and I'm hoping to serve in the children's ministry until baby #2 comes along.

Annie said...

We were laughing in church yesterday about how we all have our "places", someday I'll mix it up a little and sit in someone elses spot!

Glad you were able to find a church to fit your needs, sounds about the same size as the church I go to.

kittyhox said...

Did you ever see that "King of the Hill" where Hank and family temporarily try a mega-church because they're huffy about newcomers sitting in "their" seats? I'd never heard of that before. We generally sit in different parts of the sanctuary, depending on our season of life. If it's just us, we sit near the piano, because we love it. When we bring my parents we sit back a bit because it's pretty loud up front. With the new baby we sit close to the crying room! :)

I'm glad you've found a place to "believe, belong, and become." (That's our church motto...)

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Having VERY recently gone through the whole "visitor" thing in a Small Town, I know exactly of what you speak. Well, except for the five kids thing. I can imagine it was quite the show for the regulars!

Jen said...

Congrats friend. Big step joining the church you love so much. I'm happy for you.....I know the pew thing. We sit in the balcony and we sit with our entire Sunday School class. We are very close. And we can a times take up 3 pews....its hard to stay all together....I'm so glad you love your new church.

Lindsay said...

O glad to hear you found your spot! The part about the teeth marks had me cracking up!

samantha said...

I only checked out one church here in Spokane before I found the one that I can call "home." It is nice to have people greet you and welcome you with open arms. I'm glad you got find a church that you can call "home."