That cute little truncated pew.

December 7, 2004 | 9 comments

The last left side pew in our buildings is cut short, so people in wheelchairs can sit next to their families without blocking the aisle. It’s also right by the exit, which can be good if you’ve got medical problems. It’s the handicapped pew.

And yet in my last two wards, and for all I know in wards from Guam to Greenland, that pew was always sat in no later than third. The vast, rafty barn of a chapel could be as empty as my wallet and some completely healthy Saint would squat there. In my last ward they even had a little sign up at the pew and an older man in a wheelchair whose family would use it when available, and it still filled up before anything else.

It makes me mad. If y’all think Sunday meeting is a race to that cute, little truncated pew, with the disabled having an unfair advantage because they get to use handicapped parking, y’all are wrong. Sit somewhere else and like it.

9 Responses to That cute little truncated pew.

  1. Jim Richins on December 7, 2004 at 5:30 pm

    I agree, Adam (man, it’s good to agree with someone once in a while).

    I think in our ward, the cute-pew is filled not just because it’s truncated, but because it’s furthest away from the podium (and closes to the door).

  2. Kristine on December 7, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    Adam, I’m glad you got that off your chest! I suspect the pew gets filled not because people are terribly uncharitable toward wheelchair users, but because they don’t realize the purpose of that pew. I don’t think I realized that’s what it’s for, though I could have figured it out if I’d thought about it for 12 seconds. Which is just my point–most people don’t think about it.

    (And being close to the exit is really important to mothers of small and/or unruly children, too!)

  3. Adam Greenwood on December 7, 2004 at 5:43 pm

    You just need to summon up the blood and stiffen the sinews, Kristine. We sit in the very front of the chapel. At least once a meeting we stalk the whole length of the meetinghouse carrying our howling children. Ha! You want a pleasant chapel experience, my fellow congregants, you shoulda joined a different church. Suck it up. You think this is bad, just wait till we get a third child. Then you’ll really build character in our meetings.

  4. Charles on December 7, 2004 at 5:50 pm

    I know little children cannot always help thier behavior, but I would have to say that in my experience reverence in terms of behavior is far more observed in other churches. Is it because we expect to go on for 3 hours and as parents we are consigned to let our children get a little unruly?

    Anyway, children are one story. What gets my goat is when the adults can’t stop chit chatting during sunday service.

    As for me and my wife, we don’t pick a specific spot. We try to sit somewhere different every week, just to keep the rest of the ward guessing, since most of them have their “prefered” spots.

  5. Susan Malmrose on December 7, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    I don’t even remember ever seeing a truncated pew.

    I like to sit up front. No one ever does. Of course, then I don’t get to see everyone else in the ward during the meeting, which can be fun during Fast & Testimony meeting–I like to try to spot who’s going to get up next.

    As for children belonging to other churches being more reverent–don’t most other churches have a nursery going during the service? I know the church I grew up in did. It’s probably because our kids grow up from babies being in the chapel that they’re less reverent/formal about it.

  6. Ana on December 7, 2004 at 6:23 pm

    I always think if the Church wanted to be really family-friendly, they would build pews with childproof exits. That is, my children would not be able to wriggle underneath the pew to disturb the bishop’s wife sitting behind me, or dart out into the aisle and up through the front exit (never the back) hollering, “I’m just going to get a drink! I’ll come right back!” Ideally we would each have a locked, padded cell in which to relax with our young ones and enjoy the spirit of the meeting.

    I’m interested in Charles’ perspective on “letting” children get unruly. Got kids, Charles? I mean that in the nicest possible way, because for a long time I wanted kids but didn’t have them. Now that I do, I’m discovering that basically everything I thought I knew about parenting and children was wrong. I don’t think I “let” my kids get unruly. They do it, and there are consequences. Wish I knew how to stop it from happening in the first place. They’re only three and five, though. One kind grandmother in our old ward in Utah told us that our now-five-year-old was destined to be a bishop, because he had so much energy. That was a very nice way of saying it. It’s either that or inmate.

    Adam, in my ward there are two older men in wheelchairs. They have to box for the short pew every week.

    (The boxing part is a joke. But there are two older men in wheelchairs. One takes the short pew and the other sits up front.)

    The short pew is never taken by others.

  7. Heather Oman on December 7, 2004 at 8:25 pm

    I used to take my disabled friend to church in Boston, and the short pew was in the front. There were many a day I wished it was in the back!

    As for the unruly children bit, we had an interesting experience on Sunday. Our son’s preschool was putting on a performance, and so we attended their performance and a service at the Braddock Baptist Church. Nate said he was going to blog about it–look for that. But the interesting part is that Jacob sat with his class, with the other classes in pews behind him, and those kids sat completely still for the entire hour without a single peep! Then after the kids sang, their teachers released them to us with only one more song in the program to go. Suddenly we had our wiggling, whining, loud talking child back. It made me feel like a failed parent that a teacher at a Baptist church can get my kid to shut up and I can’t.

  8. Derek on December 7, 2004 at 10:19 pm

    I don’t remember that pew in Guam. But that was back in ’83 and they may have built a new building since then (I went to the one across the street from Anderson).

    Anyway, I bet if they painted that pew so it looked different from the others (like a hospital green or blue color), people would think twice about sitting on it.

  9. Rosalynde on December 7, 2004 at 11:05 pm

    In my last ward, we had a wonderful family where the husband was a paraplegic. He was truly an extraordinary person, and it was a blessing to see him pass the sacrament and bear his testimony. Unfortunately, I don’t think our chapel had that cute little truncated bench, because he always had to sit out in the aisle. (I was grateful, though, because he could catch my children when they escaped!)


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