It was a typical Sunday morning. My son was home for the weekend and the three of us, including my husband, attended church before taking our son back to college. The music had already begun with praise and worship as we walked down the middle isle to find a seat. We stopped at a row where there were plenty of seats to easily accommodate us. The lady looked at us like she wanted to say, “What do you want?”
I politely said, “Could you please let us in?” It was quite obvious that she was not going to give up her seat at the end, which was quite all right with us. We have never had a problem moving to the center or toward the center of a pew or row of seats. I mean this is not a concert with assigned seats on your ticket. And, we don’t mind scooting over and even moving to another row so families can sit together.
After I asked her to allow us to sit in the row, she said, “Pardon me?” Ok, the music is loud and she didn’t hear me, so I repeated my question a little louder. “Could you please let us in?” She looked at me again and said, “Pardon me”? Now mind you the people behind her heard me and so did a few people across the isle. I think they were just as shocked as we were. As I saw them squirming and looking for a place in their rows, I said with both hands up in a “surrender posture”, “That’s ok”, then proceeded to look for another seat.
There were at least three other people welcoming us to their rows, especially one young lady who left her seat to welcome us. Although I have never seen this lady before, this does not mean she is not a member. We’ve been attending this church for about three years and we have never seen her before, but each service has about 1500 people in attendance, so it's difficult to know everyone. Not that it matters. I think I was just trying to find some reasonable explanation for her behavior.
Yes, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she has physical challenges and it’s hard for her to move or hear. I mean she was sitting down when we arrived----a time when people usually stand for praise and worship; however, about 15 minutes later, she stood up and walked away and later returned to her seat with no problem. And, if the people across the isle heard, why didn’t she. Even if she were "hard of hearing", why would a family of three be standing there?
Then I had a flashback. I remembered when I was a little girl the catholic churches in our my small town had finally integrated, but not everyone was happy about this. One Wednesday evening we went to what was called at that time, “the White church”. When the lady in front of us saw us behind her, she grabbed her purse and moved about five pews ahead of us. My Mother never said a word.
Why don’t I mention the name of the church? I’m glad you asked. This has nothing to do with the pastor or other members of the church. It's a wonderful church and the people are awesome! But, whatever her reason was for not welcoming us in “her pew” it's still wrong----- and it was her choice. This sort of reminds me of some lyrics to a song I wrote, “I See You”. "I thought it was safe, but the devil’s child is here. I see who you are, where you’ve been, and you haven’t changed a bit”. Life happens!! We will not let one "bad apple spoil the bunch".
Check out this article by Thom S Rainer: Ten Things You Should Never Say to a Guest in a Worship Service. https://thomrainer.com/2015/05/ten-things-you-should-never-say-to-a-guest-in-a-worship-service/