Our church went from two worship services to one for the summer, or perhaps forever. The sanctuary was too empty during each service to justify two, but now it is a bit too full to accommodate a single 10:30 a.m. gathering. There is an overflow room for late arrivals, and I noticed last Sunday that some of the faithful were sitting out in that limbo land.
We are creatures of habit, so you can already imagine the comedic potential of combining the two services. During the 9 a.m. service, Mr. and Mrs. Jones always sit at the end of the fifth row on the left side of the sanctuary. The Smith family always files into the second-to-last row in the middle section. Always. There are other squatters at the 10:30 gathering.
Imagine the scene when the Jones, the Smiths, the Parkers, and the Petersons suddenly meet up at their respective pews at the same time and realize, in one awkward and terrifying moment, that they do not own those seats, and they may have to scramble to find a place next to people they have never said hello to.
For my part, you can always find me in the second row in the center, just behind the "friendship class," which is a group of mentally challenged middle-aged men. Somehow my chair was still available last Sunday, which was very gratifying. But as I glanced into the foyer and saw people craning their necks to see the pulpit from the overflow room, I also noticed that the very first row in the right-hand section of the sanctuary was completely vacant.
It is an unspoken rule of church life that no one sits in the front row. That's settled. It is easy to understand why this is the case: The front row has no chairs in front of it that partially hide you. There you are, hanging out, totally exposed, seen by not only the pastor and worship team but by everyone else in the congregation.
Moreover, what signal does it send the rest of the church that you choose to sit in the front pew? Do you think you are godlier than everybody else? Are you kissing up to the pastor? Are you trying to prove something?
It will take a lot of courage, but I decided last Sunday that from now on I am going to sit in that first row in the right section. I expect that there will be a few raised eyebrows, but I am determined to make my move. This way we can perhaps empty the overflow room, or at least make a dent in it. The only thing that really bothers me now is that more people will notice my head covering. Wish me luck.