Sneaking in the back door during the opening hymn, I was trying to remember if I had ever worshipped at my church on Sunday morning in a pew. I probably had—just couldn’t remember. Usually, I was up front in the chancel area with the other worship leaders—reading scripture, praying, giving an offertory meditation or occasionally preaching. So sitting in the pew was weird. It was good, but weird.
The first thing I noticed was how relaxed I was NOT being on the chancel. No worries about what came next in the service, how to pronounce some obscure Old Testament name or what expression was on my face. I felt freer to be present in the moment, think on the words of the hymns, the liturgy, the prayers. As a leader, I had certainly worshipped, but, at the same time, I felt I needed to keep my head in the game, so to speak, keep track of where I was, what I had to do. During this sacred hour, I was content to just be, to soak in the Spirit—not passively, but actively. I was content to watch and listen, to participate, to experience—content to follow someone else’s lead.
I chose to sit three or four rows from the back of the church next to a woman I’ve known for some time. We’d shared several pastoral conversations and she’d participated in classes I facilitated. But, I liked sitting next to her—not as her pastor, but as friend in the faith. She use to sing in the choir and I enjoyed harmonizing with her soprano voice. I also liked hearing the other voices around me. There were high voices, low voices, young and old voices. Together, we sang hymns, prayed prayers and affirmed our faith. I felt a deep connection with God’s people.
And, then, there was Jesus. Hard to ignore the giant figure that dominates our worship space. It’s a towering window of colored glass depicting Him, the cosmic Christ, in all His glory. In the chancel, you can see many of the smaller sanctuary windows that represent the great stories of the faith. But, you can’t see THE window—the Jesus window. As I sat in the pew, I couldn’t help but look at Him and couldn’t ignore the feeling that He was looking at me.
No denying that the act of worshiping God can happen anywhere—literally anywhere—in the chancel, on a mountain top, in a hospital room. But, on this particular morning it happened in the pew. Being there, in and among the congregation, standing and sitting with God’s people, I was reminded that it’s good to do something different, to be some place different and in that new experience, praise God from whom all blessings flow!