Nov 15, 2006

agree/disagree: location, location, location

On Dan Kimball's blog, he recently posted about how the way we sit in a church service can affect our view of God and Christianity. I couldn't agree more.

Sort of.

Dan said:
How we sit when we gather as a church does change the way we function.... I have found more research on church architecture throughout history which convinces me all the more how pews and seating do change how we worship weekly as churches which in turn shapes how people view and think of "worship". The seating does reflect and change what we can do in a worship meeting. I will share more, but I read a quote in the Oxford History of Christian Worship which shared how worship drastically changed when pews were brought in. One quote said:

"For a thousand years and more, they had been on their feet; now their attention was fixed in a single direction. The nave [the main place where seats and pews now are] which had been entirely movement space, now was mostly seating with movement limited to the aisles. Such acts of prostration [praying laying or bowing down] were no longer feasible".

We moved from the intimacy of a home, to standing and still seeing each other and relating to one another and able to bow down and pray or even lay flat and pray prostrate, to sitting in seats all looking at the front. Most of our church architecture today was either adapted from the Roman Basilica (the law court) which is the way most long rectangular church buildings with pews and raised stage and pulpit are - or the 17th Century Theater as churches adopted seating and layout like contemporary theaters.
It's interesting, because while I agree that the seating environment in a church service or the posture we find ourselves in is important I also believe you can push past it.

For instance, whenever I have a chance to speak in environments that have static seating (meaning you can't move it) or fixed lighting (meaning I can't move out of a certain area), I find that there is usually someone who assumes the role of gatekeeper to be sure I don't cross the imaginary line. Whenever that is the case, I make it a point to still cross that line every time. Not to be a rebel, mind you, but because I find that when people expect a speaker to do certain things and be limited in where/how he or she presents then they begin to attribute that same sort of thinking to God. In other words, if in our brain a church service seems predictable then suddenly God seems predectable... which he is absolutely not.

Perhaps that's why I like to break out of the lighting scheme a bit when I talk about how we tend to hide from God. Or maybe this is the reason I will walk off of a stage and commune among the people as I share about how God is nearer than we think. Then there was that one time I didn't speak at all for a whole sermon when we dealt with the issue of God being silent.

Or when I'm sitting in a worship service, I find that I don't really care if people around me are standing or sitting. Likewise, if there is an outline to fill out from a speaker I like to take my own notes instead. If it's a place I visit often, I will try to sit in different places... anything I can do shake it up.

So I agree with Dan Kimball... and yet I disagree. You can play with any room you're in - whether you're the speaker or the listener (and hopefully you're always both).

All of that to ask... if you are a part of a form of worship (in any particular religion) how do you feel the posture or positioning of your body tends to impact your faith and/or perception of God?

7 comments:

DJG said...

I think that when I am "forced" to face forward and "watch" that I feel like I am at a performance and that God is being talked about but is not really expected to be there...

If I am in a circle or other configuration where I can see and touch everyone...I feel his presence there as well.

happy and blue 2 said...

I don't attend church. When I am alone, particularly outside hiking or biking I feel God's presence from all angles..

Michael said...

I dont know how to begin, Zen is all about rules for sitting and standing and bowing and doing this when. Everystep we take and everybreath we make is what we are doing at that moment and I feel that in that momeny that is exactly how I connect to God. No other way.

Maybe I will blog about this, Thanks

Thurman8er said...

I attend a "pew church." We spend the whole service looking either at the speaker, singer, or the backs of heads.

Recently, I led a communion service where I forbade anyone to take it alone. If they saw someone sitting by themselves, they were to get up and share with them. People sprung out of their seats like they'd been waiting to do it for years.

We're getting chairs soon and I hope we move them all over the place.

BarBarA said...

Hmmm. Most of the churches I've been too have had chairs (except growing up with pews in the Catholic church).

It hasn't seemed to affect me one way or the other.

But since I don't go to church anymore, I guess its a moot point for me. I want to go to church, I miss it. I miss my pastor.

bjk said...

Growing up Catholic and having to genuflect and stand up and kneel....and now going to a chair church.....I don't know...I don't think...and yet we recently completed a crown study and it had us kneeling in prayer before starting and that kind of felt good like I was really trying to let Him have everything, because in talking about $$ I think I can get tense....to me and for me it is all about the condition of my heart and not necessarily posture??

Tony Myles said...

That's a great question... and I think it's a self-feeding cycle. Our hearts contribute to state of our posture, and our posture can contribute the state our hearts.

The catch is to allow the Holy Spirit to determine whichever is the catalyst you are most familiar with, consciously or unconsciously.