Remove the Pews for Easter’s Beauty
“. . . everything they owned was held in common.” – Acts 4:32
What we really hold in common is beauty, not money or objects. The disciples were solidly socialist for a while and things have surely changed. That being said, beauty is for everyone, everywhere. Beauty is our common destiny. It is why we were created. I am re-learning this truth from a strange source: Jonathan Edwards.
In case you haven’t noticed, Jonathan Edwards is getting a make-over. Sinners who used to be held in the hands of an angry God are now being introduced to a God who is “self-affectionate” and interested in the glory and beauty of nature and history and humans. We are to enjoy enjoyment. Check out Oliver D. Crisp and Kyle C. Stroble, Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to his Thought (Eerdmans, 2018).
What about a practical make-over? I am working with several churches right now on adapting to new realities, starting with pews. Reconsidering the pews paves the way for more beauty. We no longer shout that we are empty. We multi-use our sacred spaces. They need not be used only for worship but can also be used for the “arts,” which have beauty as their goals. We can go green by opening our buildings to more frequent use. Enjoying our sacred spaces—rather than sitting uncomfortably in them—enables adaptation, renewal and evolution.
A comic joked that he would go to church if they had recliners and cup holders for seats. Ouch, say the followers of the previous Mr. Edwards. But what if pews were comfortable or even beautiful? Remember the Edwardian guilt trip of the book, The Comfortable Pew? Or pew cushion battless? Help us Pastor Edwards, as you have helped us before.
When we confuse religion with discomfort, guide us to a more beautiful faith.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.