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When I was a student at McCormick Seminary in Chicago, I took Carl Dudley’s course on culture. One day in class, he raised the issue of where people sit in church. It is so easy for us, when we’re young, to criticize those who, in our minds, get too possessive about the seat on which they stake their claim in worship. But Dudley challenged us to try something.


“Ask one of your parishioners,” he said, “someone who has a place they absolutely have to sit in the sanctuary of your church -- ask them to meet you there some weekday. And sit down with them where they ordinarily sit, and ask them to tell you their personal history of the place.”


So, in time, that’s what I did. I asked a woman many years my senior, who was a member of a congregation I was serving, to meet me in the sanctuary on a Thursday afternoon. We sat down in her “spot,” and I asked her to tell me whatever she could remember that had happened to her there, in that pew. And she did. She told me of sermons she had heard and anthems that had melted her heart. She told me about the times she presented her children for baptism. She told me about sitting in that very spot the Sunday after her husband died. She told me about laughter and about tears. And she tried as best she could to tell me about being close to God there. Moments of splendor -- that’s what she told me about.

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