National Edition

Switching seats: Churches swap pews for chairs

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 8 2013 3:05 p.m. MDT

Churches are swapping out pews for chairs for a number of reasons.

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Churches across the United States are taking a step towards modernization by swapping out pews for chairs, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Pews have been part of the Western world's religious landscape for centuries, but now a growing number of churches in the U.S. and U.K. are opting for chairs, sometimes chairs equipped with kneelers,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Churches, the article said, are making this switch for a variety of reasons. Not only does the change minimize remodeling costs, but it also creates more space with stackable and foldable chairs and offers a more comfortable and approachable atmosphere for young churchgoers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Places in the United Kingdom, especially England, are also switching out their pews for chairs. BanburyCake published an article Monday about how churches are modernizing with the change from pews to chairs.

“The changes have been branded the biggest alterations to church interiors for 200 years,” the article said.

Not everyone is happy with the switch, though. Some traditionalists are siding in favor of the pews in the chairs vs. pews debate, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Writer Phil Wood outlined the debate in his own piece, and asked questions about the appropriateness of pews and chairs. Though Wood asked these questions, he doesn’t see switching from pews to chairs as a real debate.

“For too many local churches,” he said, “it is as important as re-arranging the pews, er, chairs, on the deck of the Titanic.”

One blogger at Reluctant Xtian offered both sides of the debate in a piece titled “The Pews Stink (and So Do the Chairs)."

While the writer said chairs might offer more comfort, pews allow more space. And the body, the writer said, can impact the mind during spiritual observances.

“I know it seems like so much dysfunction to chat about how you sit in a worship service, but I actually think how our bodies are will impact how our spirits and minds are,” he said.

But the blogger also asked for something different from what churches have offered.

"Pews stink. Chairs stink. I want a hybrid. I want flexibility. I want to acknowledge that faith in post-modernity must be more flexible than most places want to acknowledge," the blog reads. "So, how about we chop up our pews, un-anchor them from the floor, and start acknowledging something different in our lives? How about we ditch our silo-inducing chairs and start sitting closer so that our neighbor’s faith might affect ours?

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com

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