O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Growing up, my parents had decided that we would be “balcony” people. So for my entire childhood we sat on the second row of the balcony thinking that this helped hide my brother and I. When I graduated high school, the senior minister informed my parents that sitting up in the balcony actually gave him a better line of sight of us.
When I was visiting an old Anglican church in Philadelphia the tour guide showed us the family pews. Depending upon a family’s financial pledge, they were given a seat closer to the pulpit. Except for one family. Benjamin Franklin’s pew was on the back row–as the tour guide described–so that when he got bored he could slip out the back.
Then there is the unfortunate example of balcony’s being used in the south as places for slaves to sit. This was so that they could observer the worshippers, but remain not so subtly excluded from the community.
And finally, when I was seminary, I once received some very upsetting news. I wandered around campus and ended up going to the chapel service. sneaking in five minutes late and sitting in the back corner so that I would not have to see anyone. There I worshipped and prayed to God; needing to hear about God’s grace.
So, maybe where we sit in worship does matter. But perhaps it is less about the location and more about the intent:
Are we there because our parents have dragged us?
Are we seeking a prominent position so that our family can stand out?
Do we sit near the back so we can slip out easily?
Has the community ostracized us so that we feel excluded?
Or, are we coming to worship in desperate need of God’s grace and love?
And what about the person sitting next to you in worship?