Sunday, May 15, 2011


Marty Kittrell photo
'Tis Sunday, the Ides of May, and I can just imagine the fervent Spirit of The Faithful is rising like incense to heaven all over the South. Not that it’s faint or puny anywhere else---the South’s just what I’m used to, and I guess I'm just thinking of all my umpty-leven years of church attendance in the part of the country with Sunday School, Sunday Church, Sunday Night Church, BTU, Prayer Meeting on Wednesday night, Choir Practice somewhere in between there, and assorted Ladies Groups, Men’s Breakfasts, Girls’ Groups, Boys’ Groups, and Kinderfolks playtime---well, they didn’t coin the phrase “Every Time the Doors are Open,” for nothing.

Ours was a small church, with a not-too-rapid succession of good, Godly men as pastor, a really good choir and musicians, and the usual assortment of members, young to old, and all in between. The music was wonderful---loud and melodic and with good foot-pattin’ rhythms of “At the Cross” and “Leanin’ on the Everlasting Arms,” to the quiet calm of “Just as I Am” and “It Is Well.”

The podium was a plain brown boxy one, with a little slanty top, just like the one in the auditorium at our school.   The table just in front was a long-ago varnished one, with the usual “This Do In Remembrance of Me,” carved into the front panel.    The top was gently battered by the thousands of set-downs of the just-passed offering plates, and was demurely covered on Lord’s Supper Day by a snowy cloth ironed into stiff-starched primness, to befit the solemn import of the rite.  Those trays of stiff little bread-shards  and the tiny cups of grapejuice, always appearing to me as somewhere between carousel and centrifuge, were tended by tender hands, set out and cleaned and put away like a King’s Treasure.  A big brass stand in the middle of the table held an immense Bible, always open to the day’s passage.

Baptist preachers don’t preach sermons. They Bring the Message. From fiery, fist-pounding lectures with the scent of brimstone in the air, to soft, pleading entreaties that elicit tears and more than one sobbing trip down the aisle to Salvation.

And the pews. There’s no piece of furniture on Earth quite like a church pew. They range from rough-hewn flat square benches, the better to keep the congregation awake and alert in their upright severity, to graceful curved sways of architecture which leave the arms and legs on each end a good several inches forward of the mid-point of the length. Looking down from behind the podium in some churches, on the curves of the pews neatly nested one behind the other down the room, is like looking past waves to a far horizon.

Internet Photo

 The finish on pews is smooth and satiny, with the backs and the seats worn even smoother than planes and sandpaper could make them. Generations of sit-down-and-get-up, along with countless wiggling children, bored and fidgety teenagers, innumerable slide- downs to make room for late-comers, along with Sinner-Squirm and Spirit-Filled-exhilaration---those have all given the old pews a polish like the glow of a well-loved Camaro.

You’ll never find that Gleam of Glory on a plastic folding chair or a velvet flip-down theater seat, no Siree-Bob.

Photo by Marty Kittrell


LV said...

All churches have different pews as you have shown. However, we should not be concerned about the seats but what the message means. We have a lot of older folks in our church. They sometimes bring pillows. Whatever it takes. At least, they are in church.

mississippi artist said...

I loved this! We have pew cushions and I can't wait to get back to church and peek under them to see if the pews are worn and satiny under the cushions.

Southern Lady said...

Just stopped by before I go take on my day, Rachel, and I'm so glad I did ... I loved this.

Beverly said...

This brings sweet memories, dear Rachel. We have an old oak church pew on our upstairs landing at home. I smile every time I walk by it.

I see your Pink Saturday 3rd Birthday button. I am looking forward to all of the fun posts.

Jeanne said...

Hello Rachel, I have found a moment here at our daughter's home in Florida to say hello. We made ham vegetable soup for supper and it will be ready in 15 minutes. She asked me to make it from a ham bone left over from Easter dinner. I don't have a recipe and she has a bit of trouble taking that in. Smile. But MOM!!! So I tried to make a recipe as I went along making the soup. I think she has it but I wouldn't take odds on a phone call in the future saying, "MOM, I need your recipe to make vegetable ham soup." HA! My mom did the same thing to me. It is a full circle sort of thing.

I love your story about the old church pews and the many lives who experienced a country church just as you describe. Our church is rather new but the roots of our church are just as you shared. All the same goings on still happen in our old new church. Warm and loving and the activities much the same as in the olden days. However, we now have cushioned pews. Thank goodness. Smile!

Your story is dear and you make everything you say come to life in our memories.

I am being called to the kitchen so until next time.
Love you dear friend, Jeanne

Chesapeake said...

Sat on many an old and new church pew over the years, and some certainly were more comfortable than others. In one church without cushions, the congregation agitated for cushions, and the money was raised. The first Sunday of the new cushions, it was evident that the pews were the correct height for no cushions, but too tall with cushions. We left not long after, so I have no idea how they solved that dilemma, if they ever did.

Tonja said...

You must have had someone tell you how I have spent the better part of every week! Sunday schoo, Worship, Some meeting of some sort that we would have today so we would not have to come back another day,Discipleship Training, Worship, Youth group goes to someones house...adults usually meet at a nearby pizza place. Wed.night prayer meeting followed by choir practice. And for the kids...choir, missions, and a good game of keep away in the big vacant lot. OH! MY! You boys will get another bath when you get home!!!
It is where we learned to live in the right way. It is where we shared burdens, It is where we were prayed for. It is as much a part of home as our house is.

Kim Shook said...

Oh, Rachel - "tiny cups of grapejuice, always appearing to me as somewhere between carousel and centrifuge" - describes it EXACTLY! You put into words what I never could and it is perfect! You are also right about pews. Chairs just won't do - I like the good, solid creeeeek of an ancient pew.