My dream church is one with no pews, where everyone, yes…everyone, is in a circular pattern. No front of the room, no back of the room, no stage or platform. All chairs, pillows, mats, etc. are brought along and taken away again. Sitting or standing, kneeling…all good. No hymnals, bring your own bible. No agenda, no announcements of events coming up, no sunday school. Open the door at a certain time for prayer and worship and just let it flow for awhile. And that’s it. After a few hours and everyone has gone, close the doors.
This is an excerpt from someone’s blog post:
The church did not use “pews” for over 1,000 year after the church was born. In the original vintage church, they met in homes, so the feeling was family, community looking at one another, interacting with one another. The first formal building the church met in weekly was in the post-300 AD time period and modeled after the Roman Basilica (law court) and in these buildings people stood the whole time. There were no seats at all. So even standing, meant interacting and the freedom to walk around and not be locked into one place. In the 13th Century, there were backless benches made of stone placed against walls. They are first were placed in a semi-circle around the meeting room and then eventually fixed to the floor.
In the 14th century the “pews” as we know them were introduced, but were not popularized into church architecture until the 15th century. Wood benches with backs replaced stone seats. Remember, at this time period, the Reformation was happening where the pulpit was introduced as the focal point of church architecture – so the pews then became the places where people took seats to focus on the pulpit and the sermon which was shaped into a certain more formal format at the time of Reformation. It was so people of the Reformation and what was happening could sit and listen to a preacher. They didn’t have Bibles on their own, they didn’t read for the most part, so in response to what was going on culturally in the early Reformation period they made rows of seats to sit and listen to someone preach.
You can find the whole post here