The pew stretched out across the heart of the church making room for visitors and members alike. Their ageless oak frames stoically bore the weight of last week’s sins and hollow promises.
They also supported, much to their delight, the squirmy behinds of the wee children whose polished Sunday-best shoes barely dangled over the edge of their seats. All-the-while, anxious parents up and down the rows secretly cross their hearts and prayed fervently that little Johnny or Jessie would mind their manners as pre-instructed on the long drive there.
It was just the previous Sunday when a neighbor’s youngest son had proudly held up his hand during the “Children’s Story Time,” to answer Pastor Rick’s poignant question, “Where we can pray to God from?” Engaging the entire congregation, the boy proudly announced with a sly grin, “Why even on the toilet Pastor Rick!” A hush fell over the entire chapel.
For myself I thought it was the highlight of the sermon, but not so for our neighbors, or the devout, sour-faced spinster Ms. Hatcher. Her perfectly aimed stare could wipe the smile off of any innocent victim.
None-the-less, the Pew had been a place where I had felt safe and loved as a child. Other than that fateful Sunday when I accidentally tipped the collection plate from my father firm, but apparently not firm enough grip, sending all the coins clanging unceremoniously under the pew in front of us. This to my horror, left spinster Hatcher’s impatient hand suspended in mid-air, waiting for Father. Her fixed glare left me wondering if the Wrath of God might strike Father and me dead, right there in our Pew! With eyes held shut in embarrassment, I prayed my first honest to goodness prayer. That was the moment I sensed that God was a God of great compassion, for not only did he forgive my clumsiness, but he seemed to forgive my father’s soft muttering as he knelt on the floor in his best three-piece suit retrieving every last penny. This God was also a God of miracles, for Ms. Hatcher blessed us by never sitting in our pew from that day forward.
Snuggled like a baby chick under mother’s warm embrace, I was shielded from any sanctimonious members with her marvelous sense of humor. This plus sized beauty could find the fun and joy in almost any situation which was truly a God-Given Gift. The entire Pew would begin vibrating as her subtle giggles would helplessly erupt into barely concealed laughter. No-one ever knew what might set her off. One time it was a sleepy spider bobbing up and down from a fine thread, threatening to land in Ms. Hatcher’s hair, who now sat purposely in front of poor Father. Undoubtedly a snicker would erupt as we gripped our pew and prepared to ride out another choir anthem with Mrs. Butts leading the battlefront, singing at the top of her lungs, the entire piece sharp. To add insult to injury, the sadly out of tune piano, which could have worked to their favor, was flat and a few measures behind. As mother shook and father softly murmured, a less than attractive snort would sometimes slip out of me, and I would wish I could slide off the pew and disappear, leaving someone else to take the blame.
Our beloved Pew now includes my husband, children, and grandchildren. Mother and father would be proud to know that we continue to add new life each sermon with our giggles, snorts, spills, and love for its wonderful traditions.