I’ve just moved into a new ward, and I got to thinking about how people pick where to sit in sacrament meeting.
In no particular order, here are a few of my random thoughts on the topic:
- In most wards I’ve lived in, it seems like there are a lot of people who sit in pretty much the same place every week. Subject to some constraints noted below, I tend toward doing this. It’s probably more out of habit than a deliberate choice, though. Now that I think about it, I kind of like the idea of trying to sit somewhere different every week just to meet people who I don’t know yet.
- Much as I might like to sit in the same place every week, I’m not going to go so far as to arrive really early to secure just the right spot.
- Since having kids, my wife and I have spent lots of sacrament meetings in the foyer. It’s not that our kids have been unusually unruly and need to leave the meeting a lot. It’s more that we tend to reinforce each other’s Sunday morning procrastination when it comes to getting the kids ready, so we’re chronically late. On the bright side, I’ve enjoyed a lot of fun conversations with fellow ward members in the foyer.
- On the occasions when my family actually arrives early, we often end up chatting with some friend or other in the ward, and then sit next to them because that’s where we are when the meeting is about to start.
- In most cases, I would rather sit toward the back rather than toward the front. I’m not sure why this is. Social anxiety, maybe. I would rather be able to see the backs of other people’s heads than have them be able to see the back of mine. There are two exceptions I can think of. When someone I know is giving a talk and I want to be supportive (or perhaps try to make them laugh [but I actually haven’t done that recently]), I might sit near the front where they can see me. The other is when the sound system is broken, which it was once when I went to stake conference and sat way in the back. I ended up just giving up and leaving early.
- I would usually rather sit on the side than in the middle. Related to the previous point, ideally I just want to be near a wall so I can see everyone spread out in front of me. Also, kids are easier to contain in a side pew than in a middle one. In the church building where my new ward meets, though, this is not the case, as the side pews are set a couple of feet away from the wall. I cannot fathom why someone would design a chapel this way. Pews running all the way to the wall are not only better for kid containment, they’re a better use of space.
- I once lived in a ward where there wasn’t really enough space in the chapel for everyone, but the powers that be refused to allow the curtains to be opened so the overflow could be used. To me, this seems like it’s telling people they’re not wanted at church. I’m not a fan of it. Orwell posted about this problem at Mormon Mentality a few years ago, and he made a good list of potential problems.
- Alternatively, I’ve been in meetings that were so full that the bishop (or whoever was conducting) invited people to come sit in the choir seats. My impression was that people were reluctant to take him up on it. It just feels like you’re a little bit on stage when you’re up there not to sing or give a talk or anything.
- Another solution to a crowded chapel is for the conducting person to ask everyone to squeeze in so that late arrivers can sit at the ends. I love how people tend to do this squeezing so minimally and unenthusiastically. (At least I do.) If I arrived early enough to secure a coveted spot at the end of a pew, it seems unfair that I should have to give it up to some ne’er-do-well who couldn’t even be bothered to arrive on time! (Never mind that most weeks, I’m that ne’er-do-well.)
- I’m less likely to sit in the same place every week in Sunday School or priesthood meetings than in sacrament meeting. I’m not sure why.
- In second- and third-hour meetings, I really prefer to sit all the way on the back row (if there are rows at all–in elders’ quorum, there typically aren’t). My major motive is that I want to be able to be supportive to the teacher by reading scriptures or making comments. I’ve had several teaching callings, and I know how frustrating it can be when nobody in the class will say anything. From my well-chosen back row spot, I can tell if the teacher is getting plenty of participation, in which case I’ll only raise my hand if there’s something I really want to say (which happens less often than you might think!), or is getting few comments, in which case I will try to increase my participation to make the class go more smoothly.
How do you choose where to sit in church?