Something lighter today. In some old Universalist baptism rites, we hear this traditional question with Satan taking on a new guise.
Renouncing, therefore, the fellowship of evil, will you endeavor to learn of Jesus Christ, and cooperate in the study and practice of his religion?
Fellowship of Evil? Sure I’ll renounce it, especially if it means I don’t have to move folding chairs. Members of fellowships will get that one.
I hate folding chairs. I hate moving them and having them bang my shins. I hate the noise the metal ones make. I hate time it takes. I hate how uncomfortable they are. But they’re pretty darn common for new churches (and some old ones) and I want to make operating a new (and probably small) church as easy as possible.
Here’s a radical thought. Do without them and stand. OK, a few chairs for those (no judgements) who need to sit; perhaps already in the borrowed room. A few wingbacks or the like in the Garden Club room the congregation rents, say. Plus prime reserved space for wheelchair users. Cushions for small, collapsing children? (No need to wrestle with strollers!) Everyone else, up.
Not so strange a thought. In my experience, people often stand for an hour or more after the service to enjoy one another’s company and a cup of coffee. And we Protestantish types do have standing services, though we don’t often think of them as such: graveside services, small weddings, devotions at campgrounds.
But we think of church and we think of seats, if not pews. Why? Many Orthodox Christians don’t, of course, so perhaps that’s the influence of reading Orthodox missological works lately. (More about that soon.) But as I’ve written before, it was only a few generations back that owning or renting “a sitting” was highly identified with church membership itself. And those days are over. Of course, you would grow weary in the second or third hour of worship, and would want a rest, but again those days (for Unitarian Universalists) are past.
Provided people are warned, a standing service has some advantages:
- a wider variety of meeting space available
- time and volunteer labor saved moving chairs; perhaps a saving of fees, too.
- standing worshippers take less space
- freedom of movement fights fatigue
- standing worshippers can, as a group, better shift to accommodate newcomers. (Think of how people self-organize in an elevator.)
- likewise, they can better shift to focus attention away from how few there are in a large space
It is, however, strange. And there would be pressure to keep the services briefer than usual. (Is this bad?) But it’s worth an experiment. And I’d like to hear if anyone has tried this.