Thinking about Chairs – Part 2

In our post last Friday, we shared some of the survey data from our chair experiment earlier this year. For more than five years now, a number of people who call the Nativity home have thought it would be a good idea to have some chairs—three or four rows, on each side of the church—as an option for those who would prefer chairs to pews. In that first post, we shared mostly numbers. Now we get to the part that really excites our rector; Matthew really likes to listen carefully to what people are saying, and these surveys gave an opportunity for people to share whatever they needed to about the possibility of chairs.

Here’s our opportunity to slow down and really listen to one another. It’ll be hard, but it’s worth paying special attention to the experiences of people that you think you don’t agree with. What can we learn from a perspective we don’t share? How can we learn to love one another better? Another vital thing to remember: some people approach a question like this one with logic, and others approach it more with feelings. Both ways are good, and we have to listen and appreciate both of those approaches!

To make it a bit easier to listen to those different experiences, we’ve sorted the responses into practical questions, and then three groups of positive, negative, and neutral feedback. Please do read all the responses. We can only have a good conversation that helps us to figure out how to proceed if we listen with all of our abilities and hearts to where we all are coming from.

PRACTICAL:

“There needs to be a place for books for the chair/pew behind. We should get chairs that physically link together so they form a solid row. The armrests interrupt the row, it’s a trade-off for those who need them to get up and down.”

[From the editor:] You notice important points! 1) The chapel chairs don’t have either of those features, but if we did purchase chairs for the church, there would absolutely be either a pocket or a rack for hymnbooks, prayerbooks, and bulletins. 2) The chairs do come with a linking feature; we didn’t use it because it requires nuts and bolts, and we were moving the chairs back into the chapel each week for the midweek service.
In fact, you’re not alone: a number of survey responses noted the challenge of not having a good place to put books or purses, and a couple of responses noted that it would be better if the chairs couldn’t shift their position.

POSITIVE:

  • Have a mix of pews & chairs! Gives the congregation & visitors a choice!
  • I feel that anyone who did not try the chairs should have no say. Let them sit in the pew and those who are in favour use the chairs.
  • There will always be pews for those who prefer them. If the addition of chairs will be more welcoming and comfortable to others, it is a good thing!!
  • I appreciate the fact that there will be a choice of pews or chairs. Pews handy for families with young children (to be able to spread out with their toys.)
  • Creates a more inviting space for potentially new parishioners
  • Nice for people REQUIRING them.
  • How can we remove pews to encourage more togetherness? Could we remove back pews as well?
  • just do it

NEGATIVE:

  • Chairs would not be suitable for small children who tend to have books, crayons, or toys &c. Also a concern with the fabric on the chairs in case of accidents due to tears or soils.
  • Chairs are nice, but I prefer pews. [Chairs make it] not easy to control children.
  • Our worship space is beautiful as is. The chairs did not add anything to it.
  • Chairs change the look of a “church” in a negative way.
  • We are not in favour of chairs: the expense is wasteful/unnecessary, it disrupts the appearance of the nave, it doesn’t provide kneelers, pews are ideal for a feeling of community & “family.”
  • Out of place. If I want to go to movies, I will not in _church_
  • If chairs like in chapel they do not suit the church at all like when they were in the church. Prefer the Pews.

NEUTRAL:

  • I don’t think the chairs are necessarily required or needed. 🙂 Although I do like the chairs a lot.
  • Anglicans are creatures of habit and I am not sure that people that would benefit from the chairs would move from their favourite pew. Perhaps 3-4 rows at front and back with pews in the middle. Personal preference is to do all or nothing.
  • If you put them throughout the church people sit in various areas so they can enjoy not just in one area.
  • Being a traditionalist, I like the ritual of the church service & part of that, for me, is the pews. However, I also tried to see both sides & came up with a list of pros & cons for the addition of chairs.
    • PROS:
      • comfort
      • ease of configuration
      • good support for back
      • easy for people using arms to stand up
      • “modernizes the church”
    • CONS:
      • no kneelers
      • take up more space than the pews which limits capacity
      • cloth seats get dirty over time – cost of cleaning or replacement)

 

What leaps out for you as you read about how others perceived the chairs? What perspectives do you want to understand better?

Next week, in Chairs Part Three: some thoughts from Matthew.