Um, chairs?

Big news out of the Church of England this week: they have announced a competition to design new chairs for churches. I am not making this up. Stop snickering. This is NOT the time the make jokes about the Titanic and deck chairs, and the rearrangement thereof. Some people might suggest that this kind of thing is a bit of whistling past the graveyard. (On this side of the Atlantic, we stay tightly focused on mission and never waste our time on silly things.)

Now, it might be said that there are plenty of fine chairs already available. But fine is not fine enough any more. This competition demands chairs of the “highest quality design”. The creators of this contest want good chairs, because they say that too many people who rip out their pews are left unhappy because of lousy chairs. News flash: the unhappiness is not because of comfort or chair design. People are sad because their pews, or the rickety old chairs they knew and loved, are no longer there.

nave chairSince I’m not English, I can’t enter the competition. But I thought I would use 7WD to establish that there are, in fact, plenty of good chairs already out there. No need for new stuff. After all, if any place in the world wants to avoid new stuff, it’s the church.

Pictured here is the basic church chair. Why make anything else, really? It is comfortable enough to tolerate for a bit, but not so comfortable that parishioners will fall asleep during particularly, er, thorough sermons.

But wait, there are more. Read on.

In case plain won’t do the trick, here’s something a bit more elaborate. Given that this is the church, I assure you this one will be saved for the clergy. One of the principal reasons to seek ordination is that your posterior will be more cushioned at church. And you almost always get armrests.
papal throne

This one is a good choice because it’s stylish and modern, yet practical. Who wants to dig around for worship books? No one. So here you can just store your worship books right on your arm rest.
modern chair church

Here’s a good one for Lenten discipline. In case wood isn’t hard enough, you can stick a rock under the seat. Also, the weighty stone is a good theft deterrent for the chair, unless someone swipes the stone.
Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone

For national occasions, this one will do nicely. Unless you have American guests, then you’ll want something else.
union jack chair

Once churchwardens get a load of these babies, there will be a pair in every church. I know my former senior and junior wardens would have loved this, not least because of the handy cup holders. (Reclining feature NOT to be used during sermons!)

Church people aren’t always the sharpest knives in the drawer. Best to provide some instruction about the storage and use of kneelers, by the way. Still, these pews will be a convenient alternative for those who don’t love chairs.
pews kneelers

If you want a modern look — and if you care about ergonomics, this Aeron chair is your buddy. I rock one of these at my desk, and you can sit in it for hours. If your preacher is long-winded, get these!
Aeron chair

For baptisms, of course.

Given church demographic trends, everyone’s going to need these some day. Too bad more churches aren’t wheelchair accessible! Oh, and the folks at St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco will probably want this version.
motorized chair

OK, so the point of this blog post was for me to have some fun at the Church of England’s expense and to collect chair photos. Lord knows, we Episcopalians have been the butt of C of E jokesters for ever. OK, so maybe we deserve it sometimes. I do wonder though, seriously: does the church really need to reinvent the chair? I thought we reinvented the metaphorical wheel way too often, and this seems a lot like that.

Now, after all this chair-photo gathering, I’m going to go sit down.

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9 Responses

  1. LOVE the St. Gregory’s version!

  2. Scott Gunn says:

    Glad someone got the joke.

    Happy GOE week, by the way!

  3. Penny Nash says:

    Joseph, aren’t you supposed to be taking a test?

    I too love the St Gregory chair. At the moment, I could use a chair that would assist me in sermon writing. Perhaps one that would jolt me ever so gently every time I take a break to read more blog posts?

  4. Bill Dilworth says:

    Please, an ordinary black umbrella on a garden-variety Western chair – covered in Naugahyde? Too, too meh for St Gregory’s. It should really be something a little more exotic, something with pizzazz – like a faux Ashanti stool
    or Byzantine bishop’s throne.
    Covered in kente cloth, of course.

  5. Mary Cauliflower says:

    Actually, I do like the “modern chair church” design. As silly as the contest might seem, it resonates with an after-service discussion a few of us had several weeks ago. For various reasons, our parish is obligated to use its sanctuary for pretty much all church functions as our parish house is being rebuilt. This necessity has led us to think about how the church space could be more flexible. As our pews are in pretty bad shape, the idea of replacing them with chairs came up in conversation – chairs could be rearranged more easily, allow for better sight lines, accommodate more people at big services, and so on. Someone pointed out that worshippers who are less stable on their feet (older people, disabled, carrying babies) sometimes need to lean on the pews. So that heavy, wooden chair would be a nice option.

    I work with engineering students who wrestle with design/ergonomics problems that the wider public scoffs at. Yes, you could argue that the church is struggling with much bigger problems. But if the catalyst for this contest was a desire to explore creative use of worship spaces, or accessibility, or economical and attractive ways to update sanctuary furniture, this may be an effort to solve a real problem.

  6. Gary Goldacker says:

    Just came from getting wine at World Market and they have TONS of different chairs. Worth the trip if you need sanctuary chairs quickly!

  7. Scott Gunn says:

    Mary, I agree that reordering church interiors is a good idea. Renovations will often mean getting new chairs. But here’s the thing, there are a bazillion different kinds of chairs for sale already from companies who specialize in that. Maybe the church should stick to the salvation biz and just buy chairs.

    I’m willing to be persuaded about the value of this contest.

    Meanwhile, let’s get busy thinking about church reordering. And doing God’s work in the world.

  8. Laura Sykes says:

    Now I’m really sorry not to be a Baptist!

    This is really a sub-set of the great Chair v Pew debate.

    I assure you that this has divided the Church of England every bit as effectively as did the debate between Gulliver’s people of, I think, Laputa as to whether a boiled egg should be sliced at the top or bottom end.

    The chair competition is a bit of gamesmanship by the Chairistas to make the Pewistas think the battle is lost. But we Pewistas are made of sterner stuff- and we have the advantage of knowing God is on our side. The counter-attack starts here and now – Venceremos!

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