A lot of kids think “pew” is a funny word and guess what? It kind of is.
Though a lot of us don’t attend churches that have pews, many of us still do. (Though not the kind we’re talking about in this post.)
Or if like many families, you’re visiting somewhere historic this summer, you might see an old church (especially colonial churches) that have boxed pews or pews with high backs and sides. Use those pews as a good discussion starter.
Once upon a time, people didn’t sit while listening to a preacher. No, instead everyone stood (and some of those sermons were long … much longer than what we’re used to today.)
After the Protestant Reformation, the notion of sitting during a sermon took hold. But instead of the bench pews we have today, box pews were built. These were an enclosed section of the church (think ballpark skyboxes) where families could sit together. And because no one could see into the box, you could do just about anything other than listening to what was being said from the pulpit.
Families rented these boxes and the rent helped pay the pastor’s salary. In some cases, if your family wasn’t rich enough to rent a box, you couldn’t attend that church. Hmmm … something seems wrong with that. When family patriarchs/matriarchs passed away, they often willed the box pews to other members of the family.
When a box pew was open for new ownership, people would sometimes get into physical arguments over who would get the pew.
To back up a minute – pew comes from the French word “puie” which means “balcony” or “raised place.” In other words, the pews were designed for fine, high society, who could afford to rent a private seating area. Poorer people had to stand in the back or sides.
Are you getting the picture? The “fine, Christian families” sat in their elevated pew boxes, totally removed from their neighbors. That way they could listen to a sermon about loving their neighbors without actually having to see or be near those poorer neighbors. Not a good picture.
Discuss with your child the many times in the Bible, the Lord tells us to love our neighbors. Even though families don’t sit in rented pews anymore, sometimes people (yes, even in church) do ignore others who don’t “live up to their standards.” Kids do this, but adults do this too.
Have fun talking with your kids about pews, but show them the importance of showing kindness to our neighbors … which includes the people who attend church with us.