Pews were generally introduced in the 17th century, no doubt to cries of "You're cluttering up the lovely space, pandering to softies who can't stand up for a couple of hours." A hundred years ago the massive Georgian pulpit was pushed to one side and a rood screen and reredos erected (or, if you were lucky, the medieval one restored).
These changes reflect changes in theology of worship and our understanding of the ecclesia - the Christian community meeting in worship. Today there is a preference for seats in a semi-circle round a nave altar; rather than worshipping a God out there, we feel it better to worship a God in the midst of us.
Incidentally, it is easier to worship God or appreciate the architectural merits of a building if you're not bursting for a pee. Two members of the congregation at the church where I worship find it necessary to visit the loo half-way through the service (because of medical conditions). I am glad there are toilet facilities, because it is more important that they can be with us Sunday by Sunday than that Mr Wheeler's aesthetic sensibilities might be offended.
I am neither one of the old ladies nor the T-shirted trendies to whom Mr Wheeler disparagingly refers, but an ordinary member of a congregation who prefers a living centre of worship and evangelism to a museum for dead art.
Alan D Skyes
Halifax, West YorkshireReuse content