This is the Day…Friday
March 5, 2021
Church Creatures of Habit
Seventh pew down on the left side of the aisle. The end closest to the wall. That was our seat. Every Sunday at Armstrong Memorial Presbyterian Church where my Mom had been a faithful member since her childhood. Every Sunday, same spot. Same hymn book. Same pew pencil for me to use as I doodled during the message. Same everything. Every scratch on the pew or imperfection on the carpet was familiar. Every color in the stained-glass window reminded me of the week before and the week before that. We were church creatures of habit.
There were some benefits to this habitual process. If my Sunday School class ended early, I knew exactly where to go. And it made it easy for Mom to know who was missing on a particular Sunday so that she could call and check on them. It was not difficult to keep one’s “assigned space” in the Sanctuary because everyone else kept theirs also. Same pew, same space, every Sunday.
The fact that there was rarely anyone visiting the church service for the first time also made it easy to keep one’s assigned space. Same pew, every Sunday, no intruders. On the rare occasion that a new “family” wandered in, they would be escorted by the usher to a corner of the Sanctuary that was not used every Sunday. I often wondered why I never saw those families more than once. Maybe they were not willing to put in the time to earn a space as one of the creatures. The church also had many opportunities to go see them out in the community but that would have meant leaving their pew, the comfortable place, the familiar space, and predictable surroundings.
It feels good to be a creature of habit. Knowing what to expect. Familiarity with surroundings. Always knowing who will be sitting near you. Always knowing the order of events, who will be speaking, what will be sung, what time we will have lunch. We had settled in as church creatures of habit and it felt good to everyone.
Since February 13, 1921 Armstrong Memorial had been a vibrate and active church in the community. But then we became church creatures of habit. By the end of the millennium there was only a hand full of creatures left. Still sitting in the same pew, every Sunday. On August 14, 2005 Armstrong Memorial Presbyterian Church closed its doors and merged with another local congregation. There were just not enough creatures left.
Sometimes the comfort of being a church creature of habit can be misleading. Sometimes doing things “the way we have always done them” can ultimately lead to destruction. “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already—you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there” (Isaiah 43:18b-19). It is so easy to become church creatures of habit. Maybe it is time for us to allow God to show us a new thing!