Monday, July 21, 2008

A Pew With A View

Back in the day, a hundred years ago or so, many churches made their incomes by renting pews. You purchased the right to a pew and your family sat there -- sometimes for generations. You can see this especially in colonial churches, with the box-style pews, some even with little gates. Your family name would go on the gate, and that was your pew.

Now we have annual pledge campaigns to raise funds, and people no longer rent their pews. But there is something peculiarly place-oriented in the Episcopal mind. A seat, even at a two-day conference, becomes "My Seat," a little home away from home.

When I was in seminary, I liked to play around with this penchant for sitting in the same place. We had all our classes in one enormous lecture hall. And every day, sometimes even at each class period throughout the morning, I would change my seat, just to get a new perspective.

One morning, one of the more irritable members of my class came in and found me in "her seat." "You are in MY SEAT," she said. "I ALWAYS sit here. I want to sit here NOW."

What is it that makes any old seat My Seat? Or any old pew My Pew? What creates that sense of ownership? What is it in our psyches that longs for a single vista, a single unchanging viewpoint?

What would you see if you looked at things from a different angle?

+ Kit

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