Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Switching Seats

We’re creatures of habit around here. We just can’t help ourselves.

We like Trader Joe’s Free Trade Breakfast Blend coffee in the morning--black. I only use Tide. Every Saturday morning at 8:30, B takes the girls out to breakfast to the same little dive they've been going to for years.

And we sit on the left side of church, sixth row back. We used to sit in the fifth row, but that’s the wobbly pew, so we switched to the sixth row a couple of years ago.

Boy, did that cause a stir!

So, a couple of weeks ago, when Kate said, “Mom, why do we always sit in the same place at church every Sunday? Why don’t we ever sit anywhere else?” I started to get real nervous. A change was in the air.

Did I mention I’m a creature of habit? Change does not sit well with me.

“Ah . . . um . . . well . . .” I stammered, knowing full well what was coming next. I thought about giving her the explanation that we were really secretly Anglicans from the 1700s and that we had paid for our pew, but I didn’t think that would go over real well, so I just stammered some more.

“Why don’t we just try sitting in a different place next week?” she asked. Ah, the innocence of youth.

Never one to be called a fuddy-duddy, even though sometimes I really am, and always up for a challenge, I put on my most cheerful face and my most enthusiastic voice and said, “Sure! We can do that!” even though inside I was dying a slow and painful death and thinking that this would somehow go terribly wrong.

So the next Sunday, B and I were the first ones to "our" pew—sixth row back on the left—when suddenly I said, “Hey, remember, Kate wanted to try sitting in a different place this week?”

Oh. Yeah.

So B and I decided to move to the opposite side of the church. Sixth row back. (Come on now, you really couldn’t expect us to completely change our ways now, would you?)

What happened next was truly strange. It was like I suddenly became OCD and just couldn’t, for the life of me, walk like an adult over to the “other” side of the church. My stomach tightened and my palms began to sweat. Because what might happen to me over there? I mean, who are those people who sit over there? What if they don’t recognize us? What if they don’t want us sitting on their side of the church? What if they don’t like us? What if? What if? What if?

B pulled me out of my stupor and dragged me to the “other side.”

“Come on! This will be a fun experiment.” I wasn’t so sure.

Maggie had just arrived in the sanctuary, so we dragged her along with us. We sat down behind a family we actually know, so I started to relax a little as we got settled in, but as I looked around me I barely recognized anyone.

Oh my gosh, what if someone thinks we’re visitors?! How embarrassing would it be to say that, no, we're not new; we’ve been coming here for over 25 years? I desperately wanted to get up and run back to my beloved sixth row pew, but, glancing over, I noticed that it was already taken.

I gotta say, the service was weird for me. Out of whack. The music was dissonant. I couldn’t sing. I almost forgot the words to the Apostles Creed which is one of those liturgical beauties that I’ve been saying since I was about ten. Frankly, it was hard to concentrate on pretty much anything. (Sorry, Jay, but I couldn’t pay attention to the sermon that week either.)

And the coup de resistance was when the little boy sitting behind us did what so many little boys do—he let one fly during the sermon. And then giggled with his little sister. Since none of us were paying attention to much of anything except our new surroundings, we all had to try to hold in giggles too. What a mess!

Last week, as we drove past church one day, one of the girls said, “What a stupid idea that was.”

“What idea?” I asked.

“Thinking we should sit somewhere else. Let’s never do that again.”

We all agreed that we missed our beloved little congregation on the left side of the church. And while we love our friends who sit on the “wrong” side, we just can’t join them. Because they’re right. And we’re left.

And that's just the way it has to be.

Anybody else ever try switching seats in church? How did it go for you?


  1. The domino effect is always disastrous, especially at a small church like ours. If you switch seats, you know exactly whose seats you've taken. And when they arrive, looking confused and befuddled, paralyzed in the aisle because they have no idea where they'll sit, you know exactly who has caused such utter desperation. They, of course, take someone else's seat, and the domino effect continues. A tragedy if disastrous proportions.

    Every once in a while, I look longingly at the other side of the church. You know, the side over there, right in front of the windows. The light comes in at such a nice angle. Those are our friends over there. Why aren't we sitting with them? And I know our kids would love to sit next to their friends. I really think that's the side where the cool people sit.

    But then I catch myself. Don't do it. It's just not worth the disastrous consequences.

  2. We had to switch seats twice. Once because the seats behind us were stolen by a lady who coughed on our necks and gave us colds. It was really hard to switch. Oddly, like you said. The second time we just moved one row back because a friend started joining us and our pew only had room for two. Much easier transition. I understand the craziness. I am also a creature of habit. Glad to hear that I am not the only one.

  3. Ha ha! So funny! But so true. We have settled into our little spot at church, as well as at community group, where I've been lucky (or maybe "agressive") enough to get one of the comfy leather chairs. :)

    However, we are certainly not that engrained in our spot at church, and it is definitely not down to a specific row...just a general spot. I think there's something about how huge it is that keeps people from getting so tied down to where they sit. I rarely see the same people twice in our area!

  4. Jennifer -- the domino effect. Very funny! I get what you mean.

    Anon--welcome to the conversation. I'm glad you joined us! A pew for two?? You obviously don't go to my church! :)

  5. Great Blog! I have the other side of the story. I don't sit with my family (who sit in the same place every Sunday) because I help lead worship by playing keyboard and singing on the worship team. But once in a while my friend who also sings with us will ask me if I know someone particular and I'll say "Well, actually, I DO know where they always sit and they weren't here today." We get a chuckle from the fact that we know where people sit from the opposite side of the podium. Craig will say they sit on the left side and I say they sit on the right! We are certainly all creatures of habit and those who fear change.

  6. Hilarious piece, Shelly! Thanks for sharing your amazing wit with us.

    P.S. Can't say I have a favorite place to sit. I kind of like mixing it up. :-)

  7. We've done the same thing, and it really does completely throw you off! I think the people in our church are so much the same way...that they don't like it when they show up and you're "in their seats" or "their section". It didn't go over very well, so we returned to "our pew"....

    I tend to get the same food at the same restaurants, want to sit in the same section, go the same routes to places, etc. I am a major creature of habit too...when things change, it really throws me off!

    We need to try and get out of our comfort zone once in awhile though...but it does take practice!

  8. We did once. My husband thought it would be a good idea to sit in a different spot each week at church--you know, get to know other people, etc. I hated it. Of course, now our church is so small we are pretty flexible though we sit in the same general area!