From the Middle Ages onwards in some churches there have been rented pews. These gave the family who owned the title to particular pews sole access to the pews in the Church, certainly during service times. This allowed the wealthy and office holders to sit in the most prestigious places, enjoying the service and their status in comfort, while the poor crowded on simple benches near the back of the Church. Pews were often enclosed, sometimes with boards on all sides—hence the name box pews. The rent was paid to the church wardens, who were expected to use it for the maintenance of the church.
It is clear that such arrangements were not very Christian, indeed the very opposite of what Jesus taught. As some pews became ever much ostentatious, their use in Church was questioned. In the United Kingdom pew renting was supressed in the 19th century and most churches received uniform benches (pews) from then on. In the United States it lasted a bit longer in some areas. The practice never ever made it to New Zealand.
Due to the Alert Level 2 restrictions and Diocesan guidelines, we will have to temporarily assign pews in church again. But I hope that this will not become a permanent feature of our worship. And you won’t be charged rent for pews either.
The Bishop has advised that there will be no services on 12 September in the Diocese. After that, for services during Alert Level 2, we will have to submit a plan (including seating plan with bubbles) to the Diocese for approval. Unless we have already talked on the phone, please contact me if you intend to come to a service during Level 2 and I will assign you a pew. It may not be your favourite pew and you don’t have to sit there once we return to Level 1. We will have two pews for unexpected visitors, but it would be preferable for visitors to also contact me ahead of time. Enjoy being medieval for some time!