Thursday, May 15, 2008

Faith Works 5-17-08
Jeff Gill

The Big Sit

With my wedding anniversary, our son’s birthday, and other family complications coming up this week, this column may be a bit of a muddle (as opposed to your other columns, some might ask?).

My best efforts are aimed at Highwater Congregational UCC on Dutch Lane, north of Granville and south of Homer, where Torie Front, their pastor, is graduating today from seminary! To help buffer a busy week of ordination interviews (I heard she passed) and the honor of preaching the baccalaureate service, I’m preaching their 8:30 and 10:30 am services tomorrow. (Then I get to come back into Newark for First Baptist, to preach a Memorial Day themed message next Sunday!)

What I have left over for y’all starts with a note from a pastor posted to a website for a company called “Church Chair,” thanking them for an excellent product:

“It was a very important decision and I wanted to do the right thing. In ministry you’re always balancing between providing the best at the most affordable price. Church seating is a big decision because the majority of a person’s church experience is spent there.”

Owwww. That may well be true, but to casually admit it feels a little awkward. The majority of a person’s church experience is spent sitting in a chair. I say again, owwww.

Torie has carried her sense of ministry from a seat in the sanctuary to a saddle and classroom desk set and a perch next to a hospital bed doing chaplaincy – not more seat time in church than elsewhere, I’m thinking.

Kudos to Central Christian Church in Newark, and their friends from Moss Point, MS, who drove up to join them in rebuilding the town of Greensburg, KS. I’m thinking a week spent in mission efforts (say 10 hours a day times 6, making 60) does a fair amount to balance out 52 hours of seat time in a sanctuary.

Hooray for Habitat for Humanity, with 20 years of work in Licking County, and about that many homes made available to families who put in their sweat equity, more than compensating for seat time between partners and founders like Ken Klatt and Richard Downs.

“Church seating is a big decision because the majority of a person’s church experience is spent there.” That may be true, and no one may be bragging about it, but I’m just thinking that any person of faith has good reason to want to work on swinging the balance back the other way.

Where do you spend your “church experience” time? If you bustle in a basement kitchen making ham loaf for a reception after the family gets back from the cemetery and the committal service, bless you; you don’t spend a majority of your time in a pew or modular seating. You’re lucky to sit down at all.

If your church experience is as a “Wood Samaritan” in a congregation like Centenary UMC in Granville, you may lean over a lathe as much as you sit back into a century old cherry wood pew. Nice pews, but still . . .

Planning this summer for autumn “Fifth Quarter” gatherings in area high schools, as some good folk in Licking Valley do each year, you lean against plenty of concrete block walls, but sitting is not part of the ministry job description there. “They also serve who only lean and nod . . .”

“Church seating is a big decision because the majority of a person’s church experience is spent there.” I’m not going to say that isn’t a true statement, but shouldn’t most of us feel convicted by those words, and want to make them less accurate?

There is a time for every purpose under heaven -- a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to set up chairs and a time to put chairs away; a time for gathering up seating arrangements, and a time to set such things aside, roll up your sleeves, and get to work showing forth God’s love.

Where do you spend most of your church experience?

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him where you have your church experiences at

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