Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Talking out. Talking to. Talking with.

I am convinced that Church pews are an invention of “the devil”.

There we sit, in uncomfortable seats, arranged in straight rows, awaiting a word from the “experts” on the raised platform (Altar or Pulpit), up front.

Thus we are reduced to passive listeners. Our attention is on the “lecturer”.

How much more healthy would the Church be if, at various services, we were all transformed into active participants.

That’s why I re-arrange the seating when we have our weekly prayer service in the wee Chapel at Resurrection House.

That Chapel has but 8 chairs, arranged in two rows with a central “aisle”, facing the altar. In this arrangement we look at the backs of people ahead of us.

I set the chairs out in a circle so that we see each others’ faces, and thus give attention to each other more than to the leader “up front”.

In rows we are listeners.

In a circle we are participants.

Or so I believe.

In fact, at St. James’s Church in Cambridge we were locked into late Victorian pews. But when I led meetings of any ilk, we sat in a circle. That, I believe is the best way to facilitate conversation.

I also believe that our world needs more conversations and fewer lectures.

I am convinced that Senator Obama is a “conversation man”, and that Senator McCain is a “lecturing man”. That’s why I am for Obama.

The picture above is of some new seats which we installed today in a common area of our Glens Oaks Ridge Condominium community.

They are pretty enough, but facing outwards as they do, they hardly facilitate conversation.

In my naughty mind I imagine ten or so folks talking away as they sit on those seats.

But what they have to say is heard by no-one. For they are each talking “out”, without a chance of talking "with".

1 comment:

  1. Bravo- great post! I could not agree with you more on all counts.

    The guy who teaches my theology class (a priest who is a sacramental minister in the diocese, but has a business designing worship spaces talks about the church part a lot.

    And I think he might agree on Obama part too, but that is just speculation on my part!

    One of the things that we have been studying is something posited by liturgist Nathan Mitchell - that older more static systems are arboreal in nature, a tree with roots. Post modern life,for good or ill is like crabgrass or rhizomous in nature. No beginning, no end, no top, no bottom, just root systems reaching out to other root systems.

    Which one is Obama like? Yes, I agree!