Flexible Seating - Helping Churches Reach the Wider Community
A brief history of church seating
It might be difficult to imagine, but the earliest churches in England had no fixed seating; just a few stone benches around the walls and the pillars. People were encouraged to be active during worship, to move freely throughout the space, and to engage with others around them. The congregation was mobile and the interior of the church was not regimented into fixed rows of inflexible pews.
Not until the late thirteenth century was seating gradually introduced. Simply formed benches were introduced to which backs and ends were subsequently added. In time these became more sophisticated in form and design until churches were fully pewed.
By the Jacobean period pews had higher sides for greater privacy and comfort. From the end of the sixteenth century rights to a particular pew could be acquired through faculty, rent, or continuous long use. Numbering and locks became common features, while galleries were introduced to provide additional ‘free’ seating.
Community outreach – the role of seating
Today a growing number of churches want to reach out to the wider local community, returning to the vision of the parish church as the hub of the community. Across the country, church buildings are increasingly hosting a range of community services: post offices, village shops, cafés, arts centres, crèches, nurseries and community spaces. Central to this is a trend for removing fixed pews and opting instead for more adaptable seating that can be tailored to the needs of a whole range of users. But how do you go about choosing the most appropriate seating for your flexible church building? Our key pointers will help you on your way.
Strength in numbers
If your church building is to be used by a variety of users for a range of purposes, and the chairs will be moved frequently, then strength and robustness is vital so that they will withstand the higher levels of impact. Keep an eye out for chairs with strong steel frames and fully welded cross braces, like the Premier 100 Folding Chair.
All ages, all users
For church chairs to be in any way fit for purpose it is important for them to be suitable for use by individuals of all ages and ability levels. Both church services and community events are attended by adults, children and seniors alike, so think about who will be handling and setting up the chairs. Our own range of church chairs feature products like the Comfort Deluxe Folding Chair, that are not only strong and durable, but lightweight and easy to fold too, making handling by a variety of users easy.
To link, or not to link
More than four chairs in a row need to link together. Some chair designs, like the Comfort and Comfort Plus, come with an integral link which helps make set up quick and easy. Of course, the other advantage of links is that they keep your space tidy and orderly during services and events.
Storage, storage, storage
Don’t overlook the importance of storage! Consider where the chairs will be stored and how. How many chairs will stack together? What area will be required to accommodate the chairs when stored? Consider chairs like the Classic and Classic Plus Folding Chairs that can be folded away compactly on a chair storage trolley, reducing the amount of floor space required for storage. Dig out your measuring tape to check the dimensions of any storage cupboards and doorways to ensure any storage trolleys will fit. You’d be surprised how many people forget this crucial detail!
The comfort factor
And of course, remember the all-important comfort factor. Consider opting for upholstered chairs for added comfort, like the new Comfort Deluxe Folding chair with its extra deep seat pad, or a chair with a sculpted seat and back that is designed to provide added support, like the Smart Folding Chair. But remember, comfort really is a matter of personal preference: what’s comfortable for one person, may be agony for another! So take advantage of our sample service so that potential users can try the chairs out before you commit to purchasing. It may extend the buying process a little, but could save you a lot of heartache in the long run!