I think my all-time favorite Presbyterian joke is: "How many Presbyterians does it take to change a lightbulb?"
So, I have a new joke. How do you get Presbyterians to jump up like Pentecostals during worship? You have the pew they are sitting on emit a loud CRACK during the sermon. OK, that's not really a joke so much as a description of what happened on Easter Sunday a few weeks ago. While it wasn't funny it certainly got everyone's attention!
What happened? Well, we had a pew expert come take a look. He discovered that there is a crack in the bottom of the pew that had the "instant-Pentecostals" sitting on it. He also discovered that 9 other pews (out of a total of 16) show evidence of stress-fractures. He pointed out that the pews are designed with solid wood uprights at both ends and one in the middle. Additionally, there is a hardwood stiffener on the bottom front edge that runs the full length of the bench. The seat itself (and the seatback) are made from ¾ inch plywood covered with foam and upholstery. Ordinarily, the plywood is a furniture grade, but he thought we were given an inferior product, a construction grade material. The pew bottoms are flexing between the stiffeners and cracking with the grain of the ply. He didn't think there was any danger of falling through anytime soon- plywood has 7 to 11 layers depending on the manufacturer, but it will get weaker over time. He suggested we call the person who sold us the pews.
Fairview's Treasurer has been in touch with the company that sold us and installed the pews. The owner is now in his 80s and is "windingdown" his business. In fact, he hasn't represented the company that constructed our pews for more than a decade, but he did inform us that the manufacturer is still in business and does offer a 25-year warranty. So, the manufacturer has been contacted and pictures of our cracking pews have been emailed. That's where we are. I'll let you know when we hear more about what the company wants to do about ensuring the safety of people worshipping with us.
I can't help, however, but to look at this situation in a theological light. If the are pews are, indeed, constructed with an inferior, and cheaper, product is this not a parable for the human condition? Do we not try to take shortcuts, try to hide our inferior portions under a façade of upholstery, flat out sell one thing while pretending it's something else? I'm enough of a Calvinist to believe in the doctrine of total depravity. I am well aware of the need for the disciples of Jesus to own up to our own failings and failures to give our best to God. This continual sinfulness is why Presbyterians begin every service of worship with a prayer of confession asking God to forgive us for what we have done and for what we have left undone. There is no hiding from God's sight!
Thankfully, we don't have the last word. Our Lord Jesus does. He says, "Father, forgive them." Our Lord Jesus intercedes for us and offers us love and grace and salvation. This is good news of this season of Easter, that the horrors of Good Friday condemnation are transformed by the empty tomb and the presence of the risen Jesus in our midst.
I'll jump out of my pulpit now, but I do ask that you say a little prayer that the pew manufacturer will do the right thing, stand behind their warranty, and make right the place that we worship God. Honestly, some denominations stand for the duration of their worship services but none of them are Presbyterian.
Yours in Christ,