I was chatting over lunch the other day to a delightful couple from one of our local churches. We were talking about the particular issues related to having an old church building situated away from the heart of the population it was designed to serve. We discussed how that building was, in any event, not a good meeting space because it only had a small room off the nave which was any good for gatherings.
I pointed out the wonderful re-ordering of another local church which had removed pews and installed individual seats. The couple agreed that what had been done at Holy Trinity was remarkable.
'So why not do that at Tickenham?' I asked.
'No,' was the gut reaction, in stereo and vehemently.
I think the couple then realised that I had sneakily tricked them and backed up a bit to 'That would be a step too far.'
Why do we invest so much of our emotional energy in things that we fail to notice they no longer serve what we set out to do? Pews are uncomfortable. Pews are inflexible. Pews are Johnny-come-latelys in most church buildings. Pews are also, and this last one is, I admit, subjective, ugly.
Yet people love them, fight for them and hate the very idea of removing them. Long after Tickenham church is gone the pews and the building will probably still be there.
They are not sacred; they're seats.