Sunday, June 03, 2007


There's a young woman who goes to our church -- she's maybe late 20's or early 30's -- who won't sit with us in the pew.

It happened again today. Fellow Traveler was ahead of me, going down the main aisle to find a seat; she picked out our favorite row (as one of our seniors remarked to me once, "We're all like cows in the barn, heading for our favorite stanchions"), said, "Excuse me," and then proceeded down the pew to the other end, next to the window. As we sat down, the woman got up and left for another seat. But when the pastor's wife sat next to us a few minutes later, the woman changed her seat again, and resumed her previous position at the aisle end of that row, as if the pastor's wife had created a kind of physical boundary that made it okay to to sit in our pew.

Initially, when this phenomenon began, I thought that the woman simply didn't want to have any company in the pew; and the front rows of our church, like that of other Lutheran churches, tend to be a no-man's-land, so solitary folks who can nonetheless tolerate being that front and center pretty much have their pick of wide open spaces. But we've observed this flight behavior enough to conclude that something is up; that for whatever reason, this woman doesn't want to sit in the same pew as us, even at the far end.

We shower every morning; we don't smell bad, at least as far as I can tell. We do not have communicable diseases. We don't have screaming, hooliganesque small children in tow. We don't mumble to our imaginary friends during the service. We just sit and stand; stand and sit; make the sign of the cross a few times; murmur "And also with you" at the appropriate points in the liturgy; pass the peace. (This individual, by the way, does not care to engage in this ritual with us either.)

I remember back in about first grade, when Cootie was the rage in my class. If you were "it," the other kids would shriek in mock horror and run away from you; sometimes "cootie" status would follow you from the playground back into the classroom, where you'd find yourself in a state of pariahhood for the rest of the day.

I can see six-year-olds, savages that they are, getting some sort of psychic payoff from indulging in Cootie. Twenty- or thirty-somethings...not so much. I just don't get it.


The Simpleton said...

Oh, the fear that people carry around in their hearts. Blessings on the pastor's wife for claiming you, although perhaps she wasn't even aware of the dynamic.

Just a thought: I wonder if the young woman's unchristian rudeness (for goodness' sake, who refuses to pass the peace?!!!) comes from her fear that she already has the cooties. We all know that the premise of the game is to manifest your own social fear in someone else's social misfortune.

P.S. an after-thought said...

She didn't grow up or she didn't hear the part about "all are invited."

Reverend Dona Quixote said...

Closet case, perhaps? Bet me.

Jody said...

Yeah, I'm always a little suspicious when someone goes to such obvious lengths to stay away. What's got her so invested in the petty expressions of homophobia?

Besides hate, I mean.

Ick. Ick. Ick.

Kathryn said...

Yuck...I'm sorry you're both having to go through this, and hope that the woman does some growing up and or growing in grace asap.
Also, hope you're feeling a bit more like yourself?

Anonymous said...

When I was in my mid-20s I remember having people phobia - heaven knows why looking back but I would cringe if folk came too close and the Pax in church scared me witless. There was a "frisson" associated with connecting with other folks anywhere potentially intimate like church (rather than work where I could control anonymity) that really distressed me. Perhaps she's going through some persona weird phase.