117 East Burke Street, Martinsburg WV

So you want to be a “pew sitter”

One church joining faith and action

So you want to be a “pew sitter”

The church has been putting out the call for people to join us as “pew sitters,” and you may be wondering what that is. Good question!

When we started taping sermons earlier this summer for airing online, we realized it is not easy for Tom to preach to an empty church. There were two of us there to operate the camera and direct things, but that wasn’t really enough people to make the church not seem empty. So, we thought a few more friendly faces might be nice.

Also, the first time we re-entered the sanctuary to tape a sermon, it was such a powerful moment for me. After so many months, it felt wonderful to be sitting in a pew hearing a spiritual message from Tom. I knew that we should offer this opportunity to other members of the congregation.

For these reasons, the idea of “pew sitters” was born.

Some of you might wonder: If we’re going to open the church for some people, why not just open up for regular services again? There are a couple of points to make here. First of all, the church can’t open again until the Consistory votes to do so. At the last meeting, the consensus was to stay closed.

Also, we are not filling the church with nearly the number of people we might have during a regular service. On taping days, we invite around four couples or individuals to join us in the pews, and they space themselves out. In addition to the pew sitters, there are the camera operators (my husband Bob and me) and Sylvia Kesecker, who is in charge of coordinating pew sitters. It’s not a lot of people.

Safety is key during these tapings. Everyone is required to wear a mask and sit six feet or more apart. The only person who doesn’t wear a mask is Tom, and he only takes his mask off when we are taping.

We have been asked if we are sanitizing the sanctuary between tapings. We are not, for the simple reason that it’s not necessary. Scientists have found that the novel coronavirus does not last very long on surfaces. The sanctuary is being used for little else besides the tapings and monthly Consistory meetings, and there is always enough time between events that any germs would have died on their own.

How do we choose pew sitters? As I mentioned earlier, Sylvia has been helping us find people to watch the tapings. She is working her way through the congregation list, making phone calls to see who is available. Some people are being cautious and don’t want to go out any more than they have to. Some people have conflicts. Some have asked us to get back to them in the future. We are trying hard to include everyone, and so far, we’ve had a nice mix.

We generally tape every other week, on a Monday or Tuesday, usually in the afternoon. The day and time vary based on Tom’s and our schedules. If you would like to be a pew sitter, you don’t need to wait to hear from Sylvia. Call her at (304) 263-9429 and ask her to put your name on the list for the next taping. It’s a great experience, and we love seeing everyone’s smiling faces – – even if they are behind masks.

Lisa Gough is a member of Christ Reformed United Church of Christ’s Web Committee.