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empty pewsYesterday I was reminded of a practice I picked up in seminary.  At VTS, we were required to attend chapel and daily lunch together.  Like any good Episcopalians, seminarians and faculty all had their “regular seats” in chapel.  And like any insecure adolescent, we often had a similar worry at lunch – wanting to make sure we had someone (preferably someone we liked) to sit with at lunch.

With that in mind, by my senior year, I developed a practice that brought much joy to my seminary life.  When I went to chapel, instead of bee-lining my way to a familiar seat with a friend, I would pick a pew and sit by myself.  I was always pleasantly surprised with the result.  Sometimes I ended up sitting alone the entire service – a practice that allowed me to become much more focused on my prayers.  Sometimes the most wonderful friends snuck into the seat beside me just as the service was starting.  Their presence brightened my day and lifted my joyful heart in worship.  And sometimes someone I was not as excited to see would sit beside me.  Inevitably though, we would end up chatting after the service and something about that conversation softened my heart into a much more Christ-like way of loving all my neighbors.

The same was true at lunch.  If all the tables were full, instead of squeezing in one more seat, I would pick an empty table and sit down.  This was the biggest gamble because up to seven people could join you.  Again, sometimes the closest of friends and professors would join me, leading to much laughter and enjoyment; sometimes an odd conglomeration of individuals would join me, leading to intriguing conversations; and sometimes total strangers or even those who I was not so fond of would join me, but the interactions were no less rich, and always opened me up to something new.

So yesterday, at our Diocesan clergy day, I sat in a row by myself.  To be fair, I did sit behind a set of clergy I really like, but I did decline their invitation to squeeze in, just so that I could enjoy my old seminary practice.  And the experience did not disappoint.  I enjoyed a great pew of colleagues with some stimulating conversation after worship.

Driving home, I began to wonder where we make room in our everyday lives.  Where do we leave space for others to join us?  Certainly, this applies to our church pew and coffee hour sitting behaviors, but the question is bigger than that.  Where do I make room for holy interaction with others, talking about my faith, listening to their sacred story?  How do I make room for the movement of the Holy Spirit to act in the open space I create?  This pattern of behavior is not easy or even comfortable.  Making room for others takes intentionality, vulnerability, and a willingness to sit alone until someone else arrives.  I invite you today to ponder where you are leaving space in your life, and how God is already using that space for good.