Scoot Over, That’s My Seat

My spot in church is more than just a thoughtless habit.

On a recent Sunday evening, most of my church’s pews were already filled when I arrived. I directed my children to an open spot on the right side of the sanctuary and sat down just as the prelude began. A church member leaned over my shoulder from her place in the row behind me. “Wow!” she whispered in mock surprise. “You’re coming over to our side!”

She had a point. Since arriving at my church two years ago, I have sat in the fourth row from the front on the left side nearly every Sunday. My kids meet me there if we get separated after coffee time, and church people leave notes and casserole dishes on that row because they know I’ll be there to get them.

Whether it’s a courtside sports bench, a desk in the classroom, or a pew in church, people routinely sit in the same places. In every church I’ve been part of—from a 3,000-member downtown church in the Deep South to a small congregation in Pennsylvania farm country—members tend to pick their seats and stick with them, sometimes for generations. I have my spot, and other people have theirs. We may joke about “our assigned seats” with half-guilty smiles, but we seldom switch places. That fourth row on the left just feels right.

With Easter Sunday approaching, and attendance numbers at our churches likely to swell to their highest all year, some of us may find ourselves temporarily going over to the other side. But we’ll likely be back in our usual spot the next week, and that’s not a bad thing. Why? My seat in church is more than just a thoughtless habit. Rather, it is the physical place where I link myself to the church and proclaim my intention to be a regular worshiper there.

At the turn …

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