I had the opportunity to view things from the other side of the pulpit recently. I attended a get-together where I didn't speak; I listened. I got to view the congregation from the perspective of a congregant. I experienced the view of the back of heads, the distraction of someone shuffling around a couple pews behind me, and the – well what adjective describes one sitting two people down the pew from me playing video games on the smart phone during the sermon?
Despite the distractions, it was a good experience. Maybe churches should require the pastor to sit in the pew during one worship service a year. It would keep the ordained more aware of the layperson.
But, sitting there prompted me to write this little epistle. I'd like to talk to you about proper pew conduct. Please don't take this as a lecture from the clergy to the laity, but, rather, accept this as some suggestions that might keep you in your pastor's good graces.
Let's begin with the obvious. Listen folks, I know we're living in the age of total hydration, and there are places to carry your large economy size plastic bottle of water bubbled up from the depth of the natural springs. The worship service is not one of them. So, I'm sitting there in the pew, listening to the preacher trying to inspire the congregation, and two rows in front of me, about ten degrees to the right, this fellow lifts his bottle of water, unscrews the top, raises the bottle to his lips, tilts his head back and gurgles down about a third of the contents. It's rude. It's self-centered. And, after researching this following the service, I can tell you for a fact that not one person in recorded history has ever died of thirst during a sermon.
Speaking of that plastic bottle of water, if you insist on partaking of the liquid during the service and you drain the bottle, do not, let me repeat, do not leave that empty bottle decorating the pew following your exit.
Speaking of decorating the pew, I've served churches where I could tell you which members eat breakfast at which restaurants. I can do this because people usually sit in the same pew Sunday after Sunday. When there's an Egg McMuffin wrapper in the same spot where you sit Sunday after Sunday, I become aware of your Sunday culinary habits. And, since folks sit in the same seat Sunday after Sunday, I know who left the trash.
There are a few other tips I can give you. For instance, when the offering plate is passed around, don't, I repeat, don't make change for your donation. I mean, if you don't put anything in the plate those near you will think you must have given a month's offering last Sunday. But if you make change they are going to think you're cheap.
About the chewing gum. Okay, Mama said if you can't say anything nice about someone don't say anything. So, I'm not going to say anything about anyone who sticks chewed chewing gum on the bottom of the pew. But the chewing gum does bring up a mystery. I've been a pastor for over forty-five years. There's one thing about church people that drives me to distraction. Don't ever stuff your chewing gum wrapper in that little hole beside the pew envelopes that hold the pencils. They can't be unpacked!