Monday, February 15, 2010

Rod Dreher on the Great Pew Controversy

...Yesterday I mentioned to Julie that I didn't like pews, because they made me feel as if I were part of an audience watching a performance on the altar. Without pews, I felt more like someone gathered around a bonfire. The author of this essay puts it more harshly than I would, but the insight is essentially the same. You wouldn't have convinced me several years ago when I first walked into an Orthodox church that the experience of worshiping without pews would make me feel more integrated into the liturgy (as opposed to merely tired from standing), but having worshiped this way for almost four years, I've experienced the difference, and love it! It makes one feel personally more integrated into the liturgy, I find.

Roman Catholics used to go to mass like this too, but it appears that the Reformation also brought pews into Catholic churches as well (Byzantine Rite Catholics generally still observe the older tradition of standing during mass, though I've attended two Byzantine Rite churches in the US that have pews). It surely must strike most American Christians as interesting, at the very least, to think that pews in Christian churches are a relatively recent innovation in the history of Christianity. For three-quarters of our history, most Christians stood at corporate worship.

Let me ask my Orthodox readers for their thoughts on having pews inside our churches. I'd also like to hear from Catholic and other non-orthodox readers on the topic.
Read the rest (and the comments) here.

For the record I agree with Rod. Pews are OK but given a choice I prefer the more traditional practice.


Roland said...

As a member of the pewless Antiochian parish that Rod mentions, I like worshiping without pews and see many advantages to it. It's especially useful in a small church like ours, because it lets us pack in more people when we need to!

On the other hand, standing for over three hours on Sunday (between Matins and Liturgy) can make the pinched nerve in my back act up. So I'm often grateful for the chairs along the sides of the nave.

Ryan said...

What's the point of having pews when you end up standing for 90% of the liturgy anyway? Chairs on the side are all you need.

Son of Trypho said...

I have no problems with pews nor with their recent addition to worship - there is an organic historical development in this instance here which is not negative and they are not mandatory nor required and in some time could be abandoned again.

Practices change with things like this and I don't think it is something to get too hung about.

Anonymous said...

ahh, but the reasons that practices change are less "organic" than one might think...
Most pews came in because the immigrants wanted to be more "American" and that meant having pews like the Protestants. This is not an organic motivation it is one of insecurity and lack of faith - that the Orthodox are indeed whole & complete and lack nothing because we are the Bride of Christ. That Christians are different is one of the benefits of being one and part of our witness in Christ.
I am not judging those with pews, I converted into a church with pews and during Great Lent they are a huge issue because no prostrations can be performed - for me, in my new Church home - the lack of pews makes worship more organic and integral.
blessed Lenten season to all,
the handmaid,

David said...

Next thing you know we'll have musical accompaniment. Clearly this is an attempt of the Republicans to force a civil religion down the throats of Orthodox Christians, death camps will be next for any woman who wears a headcovering.
Just wanted to warn you.

Frank Schaeffer

(Just kidding)

Anonymous said...

The Old Believers, who have the most ancient of the Byzantine tradition, have long benches across the nave. Also, they do not move about the church doing ikon crawling, which has become so popular either.