In an article on church controversies over switching from pews to chairs in the Wall Street Journal, one pastor quoted thinks pews are scary:

“Lots of people shy away from a formal church setting. It makes them very nervous,” says the Rev. Samuel LaCombe , of the Windham church, who is planning to move the new chairs aside to use the sanctuary for community suppers. “Now, what’s so scary about beans and hot dogs and yeast rolls? Not much.”

The real issue is not what you sit on, but what that space is for. At Windham church, the place for God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper will now also be filled with beans and hot dogs. The chairs make that possible, because they make the structure of the room flexible. That is, no doubt, part of their appeal, as churches are moving increasingly to multi-purpose rooms.

Worship, suppers, and basketball

Worship, suppers, and basketball

The other main problem with church seating has nothing to do with pews v. chairs, but the padding. My last vacation Sunday, we went to a church with lots of carpeting and cushioned pews. The singing was vapid. Cushioning sucks up sound. Hard surfaces reflect it. If you want a church with serious congregational singing, the first thing you’ll have to do is get rid of the carpet and cushions.

Do people get “nervous” in a formal church, as LaCombe suggests? Quite possibly. That’s a feature, not a bug. You’re a sinner in the presence of the Holy God.

But there’s nothing to be scared of in the church full of beans. Except the other churchgoers after supper.