The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

July 7, 2013

Ministers find solution to ‘free’ pews


“Sometimes it is hard not to have worldly thoughts,” the minister wrote in his diary.

Controversy commenced when he did what he thought was a good thing. A benevolent member of his congregation had made a gift of new pews to his church, and he offered the old pews to a fellow minister of a small country church.

His friend was delighted with the gift, for the pews and chairs that served as pews in his church were in a state of disrepair.

Trouble reared its head after the minister of the country chapel announced the proposed gift to his congregation.

An elder approached him a few days after the announcement and warned him the gift was not universally popular with the sheep in his flock. One sister had informed the elder she would just have to stand through every sermon if the city pews were put in her church.

A few meetings were held to discuss the problem. The majority of people in the church wanted to take the pews, but the few who didn’t were rock solid in their opposition.

The young minister in the country church kept the older minister informed of the progress, or lack thereof, in the pew controversy.

The benefactor felt he was responsible for his young friend’s problem, but there was one aspect of the issue that was a little amusing, he noted in his diary. It brought a smile to his face when he thought about his friend delivering a sermon to the sister who would be standing and glaring at him from the back of the church, if they took the new pews.

The main point of opposition to taking the gift seemed to be that it would be accepting charity. It appeared the church member who was leading the opposition, at least from a distance, would probably accept the pews if they were not a gift.

In an attempt to end the controversy, the minister of the country church announced to the elders at a special meeting an anonymous donor had offered to buy the pews from the city church at a fair price.

The elders agreed to allow the purchase and the two ministers agreed to work out the price. When this news was circulated through the congregation, all was peace and harmony again.

When the fair price was agreed upon, farmers moved the pews from the city to their new rural home with horse teams and wagons.

For the price of $1, the senior pastor purchased the pews for the country church, and tranquility for his young friend. A small price to pay to stave off those “worldly thoughts.”

Donald Richter’s column appears every other week in the Commercial-News. He is a member of the Vermilion County Museum Board.