Author Archives: nativityniagara

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.

 

Thinking about Chairs – Part 1

From Advent through until just after Epiphany this past year, we experimented by removing three pews on each side of the church and putting the chairs from the chapel in the space created.

We tried this because over the last five+ years, a number of people have expressed a desire for more comfortable seating. With the replacement of the old chairs in the chapel for the new ones, we had something we could try! We have never imagined replacing all the pews with chairs: we’re curious about replacing SOME pews with three or four rows of chairs on both sides of the church.

People were invited to try sitting in the chairs in the church for one or more services during the trial period. Afterwards, the pews were brought back in—and then asked folk to respond to the experience with some questions designed on the principles of appreciative inquiry. The idea is that we’re trying to identify and appreciate the best of what is, while beginning to imagine what might be.

After the anonymous survey responses were collated, each survey response page was scored to see how much the response liked the idea or didn’t like the idea of chairs. Here’s our overview of what we thought:

Strongly in Favour of Chairs 13%
Wants to Proceed with Chairs 28%
Sees Benefits of Chairs 21%
I dislike chairs, but I can be okay with some 5%
Serious concerns about Chairs 13%
Strongly Opposed to Chairs 20%

About 33% of the responses indicated a disapproval of chairs after the trial. About 41% or responses indicated wanting to proceed with chairs. The other 26% perceive some benefits or don’t love the chairs, but can live with having some.

Of the people who submitted survey responses, 80% had tried sitting in the new chairs, and 60% had tried sitting in them for a full service.

Asked what they appreciated about the chairs for themselves, we heard things like:

  • comfortable for sitting
  • back support
  • arm rests
  • greater ease of standing
  • “cush on the tush”

A third of respondents said the chairs made it easier for them to enjoy being in church; just over half noticed no difference, and 12% felt the chairs didn’t make it easier for them to enjoy being in church.

The next big question was about how we noticed other people appreciating the chairs. We wanted to ask this question because we knew a lot of people didn’t feel a particular desire for chairs themselves, but communities that thrive care about everyone in them being able to thrive, too! Some people commented that they hadn’t watched to see what others had appreciated. Those who had noticed pointed to the same kinds of things we experienced in the chairs ourselves–particularly noticing others’ comfort and increased ease of standing.

Asked where chairs should go if we do replace some pews with chairs, 61% of respondents thought they should be placed where they were for the trial. About 14% felt chairs would be best at the front, and 11% though best at the back. There were a couple of other thoughts about possibilities.

In our next post about chairs, we’ll share the comments and observations people gave in their survey responses about their experience of the trial. Check back next Friday—November 1st—to get a sense of what people had to say!

Save the Date – June 7th!

On the afternoon of June 7th, 2020, join us in the Nativity Gardens for their formal blessing by Bishop Susan Bell!

Construction of the Nativity Gardens begins this fall. This new space, to be shared by the parish and all the communities in East Hamilton, will provide fabulous opportunities for community building and fellowship. We are deeply grateful to the Anglican Foundation of Canada, to the Diocese of Niagara through the diocesan WOW Grant program, and to the City of Hamilton for their support of this new project through Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla.

aflogo Diocesan Coat of Arms hamlogo

Join us for the Nativity Gardens Launch Party and Blessing!

Going to the Polls

I’ve taken my son with me each and every time I’ve voted in his lifetime–municipally, provincially, and federally. What’s struck me the last few times he’s accompanied me to the polls is how insightful his questions are and how deeply he thinks about some of the issues. It’s exciting to be part of helping him to become an informed and engaged citizen!

One of the hardest things about the election period is making sense of how our faith shapes our response to the campaigns. My commitment to Jesus means I feel the need to ask some particular questions of candidates and party leaders: not as some shibboleth or litmus test that they need to get right, but to see how they make decisions–and particularly how they care for the dignity and well-being of all Canadians as individuals as well as Canada as a community. I think of these questions as a work of discernment: where is God leading us? How do I share in caring for my fellow Canadians? These are matters of faith, and my responses are grounded in the promises I’ve made in the baptismal covenant.

The Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) has issued a helpful guide entitled Justice, and Only Justice, Shall You Pursue. It offers background information to some critical topics that face Canadians, together with suggested questions we might ask candidates. It also has resources for ways we can learn more about those topics and get involved beyond the campaign period. The 2019 focal points include refugees, peace and disarmament, climate, reconciliation, poverty, palliative care, religious freedom, sexual exploitation, and public health care.

I encourage you to check out the CCC’s guide. It’s a great starting point for conversations that the Anglican Church of Canada has been part of for many years, and that we as Canadians need to be part of as we desire–and work for–a better country.

– Matthew

Circle of Love, Support, and Solidarity

Let’s show our support for our Muslim neighbours!

Our major celebrations of worship each week as Christians typically happen on Sunday mornings, as we celebrate the good news of the resurrection. Our friends, neighbours, and fellow citizens who are Muslim gather on Fridays, just after mid-day for their principal service, called صلاة الجمعة‎ — ṣalāt al-jumu‘ah.

Last Friday as they gathered for prayers at the Linwood Islamic Centre and the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, many worshippers were shot. At least fifty men, women, and children as young as three years of age, were killed while they prayed.

As the Muslim community of Hamilton meets for jumu’ah this Friday, we are invited to be part of forming a circle of love, support, and solidarity outside mosques. We’ll stand together in witness to the power of love over hate, sharing the love we meet in Jesus Christ, and responding to our baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being!

  • Friday, March 22nd
  • outside the Mountain Mosque (1545 Stone Church Rd E, Hamilton), gathered with fellow Christians, followers of Judaism, and other concerned citizens
  • jumu’ah begins at 1:30 and finishes around 2:30

Christmas Traditions

Even as we prepare to celebrate God making God’s home with us, the God we meet in Jesus Christ, we all have important personal traditions. For many, it’s a special feast; for others, travelling; still others can’t imagine Christmas without a particular carol.

Some folk need to watch Elf or Alister Sim in Scrooge (… or the better one, where Kermit plays Bob Cratchit…). There are all kinds of stories that help us appreciate even more deeply the good news we hear in Luke’s gospel.

One favourite is a story by Stuart McLean, called “Dave Cooks the Turkey.” It’s in McLean’s Home from the Vinyl Cafe: A Year of Stories collection.

From now through twelfth night, enjoy our rector reading “Dave Cooks the Turkey” at the link below. Whatever your traditions, may your Christmas be full of rejoicing: Christ comes into our midst, and draws us into God’s loving embrace. Happy Christmas!

Dave Cooks the Turkey by Stuart McLean

 

Bells for Peace

Bell

On July 28, 1914, the First World War began. On August 4th, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, bringing the then Dominion of Canada into the war. Speaking with a friend the night before, the British Foreign Secretary—Sir Edward Grey—remarked that “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”
The threat of aerial bombardments and shelling meant that the nights grew much darker, as opposing forces tried to prevent their enemies from knowing just where they were. Some of the normal joyous sounds of city and village life also quieted so as not to declare their location, and the ringing of church bells ceased.
This year’s Remembrance Day marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the first World War. A century ago, communities spontaneously celebrated with the ringing of bells that had long been silent during the war. Relieved and rejoicing, people around the world began to see the dawn of hope.
To mark the centenary of the end of the World War I, the Royal Canadian Legion has invited Churches and places of Worship with bells to ring them one hundred times, beginning at sunset on November 11th.
Please gather with us on November 11, on the front porch of the church as we join in the Legion’s Bells for Peace initiative. We’ll meet at 4:30, and all present will be able to join in the ringing of our bell as we mark the anniversary. To remember is to work for peace.