A church chair is a chair that provides those in attendance at a worship service the ability to focus on the service itself versus continually dealing with discomfort because of the chairs they are sitting on. The reality is that when people attend a church service they want to be able to see what is going on, hear what is going on, and be able to choose to participate in what is taking place. But when the chair they are sitting on is uncomfortable, all of the above are affected negatively and will become a distraction for them throughout the worship service, versus something that enhances their overall experience. Please know the above truth is not related to the appearance of the chair. Instead it has everything to do with the comfort the chair provides.
As I reflected on this pastor’s statement, a couple of thoughts came to my mind. One is that his statement was a very personal one that indicated a preference that was important to him and was a value I needed to honor. An additional thought though was about what actually makes a chair a ”church chair”. Here is an expansion on those thoughts with three observations as to what really is needed for a chair to be labeled a ”church chair”.
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On Saturday July 6th, the situation reached a boiling point. A man sat in one of Spate’s chairs in Madison Square Park, and he absolutely refused to pay the five cents that Spate’s man Thomas Tulley demanded. Finally, Tully pulled the chair from out under the man and bedlam ensued. An angry crowd surrounded Tully and began shouting, ”Lynch him! He’s Spate’s man!” Tulley fought his way through the crowd and sped across the street to the Fifth Avenue Hotel, where he rushed upstairs and locked himself in a room. The crowd gathered in the hotel lobby for about 30 minutes, when policemen arrived and escorted Tully from the hotel to wherever he called home.
Later that day, with the heat still beating down on the park-goers, another one of Spate’s men evicted a boy who was sitting in one of Spate’s chairs in Madison Square Park and had refused to pay the necessary five cents. An angry crowd attacked Spate’s man, and when a policeman tried to intervene, he was dumped into the park’s fountain. Spate’s man fled the park in fear, and after he did, delighted people began taking turns sitting in Spate’s chairs (without paying of course). When nightfall arrived, several people carried Spate’s chairs home with them as trophies to grace their own living rooms. The following day, Sunday, July 7th, the uneasiness moved to Central Park, where a huge crowd gathered in defiance of Spate and his green rocking chairs. While two of Spate’s men guarded Spate’s precious chairs, the crowd marched perilously close to the chairs chanting to the tune of ”Sweet Annie Moore”:
Suddenly, two broad-shouldered men approached the rocking-chair sitters. They wore identical gray suits and they carried black satchels with straps over their shoulders. The men in gray told the sitters that these were private chairs for rent, and that if they wanted to continue sitting they had to fork over five cents a day for the better seats, and three cents a day for seats that were not in as preferential a position in the park. Some people vacated their seats, but others paid. People who did neither were physically ejected from the seats. When they asked why, the men in gray said, ”Them’s Mr. Spate’s chairs.”