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Church Pews: History and Spirituality

Aug 8, 2008
Churches go back a long way back in history. Along the way, they have under gone vast changes. The changes, in a way, depict the social changes that took place in history. The changes were based on the changing ideologies, while on the other hand the changes were depicted by the different styles of church pews that also underwent changes over the times.

Pews were non-existent in the medieval times and since then they have gradually evolved.

They were not in existent as in those times congregations were held standing. The important feature of churches in those times was their dome at the top. This was part of the centralized architectural plan of the architects of those times. The church designers usually based their plans solely on one structure or shapes like circular, polygonal or square shaped.

Gradually the pews came into existence and in the period between 1600 and 1800, when everything was about social stature, pews were also used to distinguish between the various social classes. They were a dominant feature in the church just to serve this sole purpose.

Classes of higher strata only had the opportunity to sit in the pews closest to the pulpit.

Pews were separated into groups; one for the general public and one was set-aside for the special groups of people. There was a different kind of seating order for the poor, adolescents, people deaf or hard of hearing, widows and one was also kept aside for blacks. Church pews for blacks were known as "Negro pews". Some churches went a step ahead and had numbered Negro pews or had the pews labeled as 'Negro'. Looking at this the social and racial discrimination in those times is clearly visible.

The next period saw a lot of slaves and churches therefore saw slave-owners buying pews for their servants and slaves. This was clear shift from the social discrimination.

The old parish system was set in the 12th century but now England was undergoing a vast change and was developing at a rapid rate with new cities like Liverpool, Birmingham, London and Manchester coming up. Several reforms came about and the old parish system collapsed in the 19th century. Inspire of all these happenings the seating arrangements in the church pews were still extremely haphazard an unorganized. Hence one could never be sure of finding pews in churches around. Even now there were no free pews for everyone. They were rented out to families or the pews were in the name of different houses, so that other than those families no one ever got to sit on the pews. The churches tried to solve this problem by arranging for pews for everyone along the galleries. But this wasn't sufficient, especially with the now ever-growing population as it was increasing at a rate, which the churches couldn't accommodate.

But since then church pews and churches have come a long way. The reform first began in 1930. In the period between 1840 to 1930, the private seating arrangement was banished and due to this free pews and open seating arrangements took their place. This is how the term "free church" came into being. Since 1930, there was an increasing awareness about the necessity of equality and this was especially applicable in the house of God. Along with the change in the ideologies of people in the US as well as other countries, the church also underwent change. The blacks were ceased to be discriminated again and thus this good change occurred.

In the post civil war period, most of the churches added box pews and pulpits to their furnishings. The changes at the beginning were due to theological considerations. But now, in the modern church architectural world, theological considerations find no place. Most of the significant changes took place in the post civil war era. The pulpit came to the forefront and got a position right behind the communion table. The communion table replaced the altar.

The current seating arrangement in the pews materialized from a lot of trial and error. A lot of churches experimented with the seating arrangement in order to reach, one suitable for all. At one time parishioners actually sat face to face. Church pews came into use soon after the medieval age and even then the pews were mainly for the people who really needed them, like the elderly people or informs. The development of pews started when Bishops got chairs and then pews were used for the ministers and the congregation. Now, in the modern churches, pews are used to accommodate the masses attending church.

While following the course of the church pews through history, we see that they were used as a means for discrimination between blacks and whites, between genders, between the rich and the poor. But now in the modern world, there is no place for a narrow-minded outlook. Anyone and everyone, rich or poor, black or white can use the pews and the church alike. They are all equal in the eyes of God.
About the Author
Soemul Evans is a seo copywriter for a leading Church Pews manufacturer specializing in affordable Church Pews.
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