On Memorial Weekend, my wife and I had plans that took us into Houston. We decided to visit a large church for the first time, and then go about our day. We entered the side foyer of the church about 20 minutes prior to the start of the early service. There were no ushers or greeters at the door to direct us to the worship center. Eventually we found a child care worker who pointed out the way.
We stopped at the rest room before the service. I got out first and was waiting for Sue in the empty hallway. There was a gentleman about 20 years my senior in a small closet off the hallway. He was struggling with a 9-foot banner on a metal frame, and could not get it out. When I offered to help, and he asked if I could carry it into the main foyer. He was the church evangelism coordinator, and started recruiting me to join the ministry. After helping him set up his booth, I returned to Sue.
As we entered the almost empty sanctuary, it appeared that we could sit anywhere we wanted. So, we went down about half way, and sat next to an end seat marked “reserved.” Sue decided to visit the main foyer, and left her purse and Bible on the seat. A woman came up to me, pointed at Sue’s chair, and asked if anyone was sitting there. I said it was being held for my wife who was in the foyer.
She said the “reserved seat” was for her husband who was an usher, and she wanted to sit next to him. Further, her daughter was home from college, and she wanted her to sit next to them. Bottom line, could we move down to accommodate her request. I looked down the row, and was deciding just where to move, when the lady said, never mind. She said she would rather sit in the back with her daughter anyway. Our being in those seats was reason enough for her to go to the back. I assured her that we would gladly move, but she insisted on sitting in the back, and left as Sue returned.
We were discussing the encounter when a man of authority stepped in front of me. He was wearing an official gold badge with the words DEACON prominently displayed, and his name underneath. He asked us to move down the row because he would be sitting in the “reserved seat,” and wanted his wife to sit next to him. At first, I thought he was joking with me. But he was not, and he meant business.
By now the row was filling up and there was no reason to be cramped in a huge building that was about one-third full. So, we moved back several rows to where there were many empty seats. Almost immediately, the first lady came over and asked us why we had moved. I explained that the DEACON had told us to move. We looked over at those seats, and sure enough, the DEACON and his wife were sitting there. The lady apologized for the confusion and was just leaving when the DEACON came to where I was sitting. Is it possible that I was in the wrong seat, again?
The DEACON started explaining to me in detail why he asked us to move. He said that the church wanted the usher’s wife to sit next to him in service. It appears that this is commonly known among the faithful, but not so much among the potential hundreds of visitors who may stumble into their nearly empty worship center. I asked why they didn’t put a reserved sign on it for her, and he said I would need to take that up with the church.
When the service ended, we headed for the back door, hoping to not cause any more consternation among the brotherhood. But sure enough, this same DEACON had hurried up another aisle to catch me before leaving. He grabbed my arm and said he was sorry for the confusion, and encouraged us to “come back sometime.”
Since the DEACON had told me to take it up with the church. I did. Several days later, I had a productive telephone conversation with the Usher Supervisor. When I told him the name of the DEACON, the supervisor said, “That’s strange. That DEACON is a recent widower.” (dramatic pause)
Looking back, I realize that the DEACON had a lot on his plate. I pray for God’s rich blessings on him and his significant other. The Lord reminded me of Colossians 3:13 NLT – “Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Done!
One last suggestion, sit as far as you can from a “Reserved Seat.”