The first or second Sunday I attended the Herriman Rose Summit LDS Ward, I had an entire center pew to myself. Just me, 14 feet of empty bench, a few hymnals, and a scatter of Cheerios from the previous ward.
It wasn’t until the opening song began that it occurred to me I was in someone else’s normal worship spot. Maybe my coming had been foretold, and no one wanted to sit near a guy who earned a living writing about the people at church.
Truthfully, I was in my proper place, just not in the right building.
I slouched away to an inconspicuous corner. The pew I abandoned was immediately filled by regulars. Things returned to what passed for normal in this new environment.
Knowing where to sit wasn’t a problem in my former ward, where I had attended for so long that I had clearly established my worship spot: middle of the second to the last center pew.
More accurately, it was the spot for Trapper’s family. I’m the only one in my family who attends Mormon services, so I was eventually “adopted” into his for purposes of seating.
Every Sunday, we went through the same ritual greetings as we settled into our usual family place.
“Did you remember to take your meds, Kirb?”
“Here’s a knife that needs sharpening.”
“Is your Homer Simpson ring tone turned off.”
And so it went for nearly 14 years. Then my family moved out of the Pioneer Sixth Ward, and the process of finding my place in a house of worship started all over again.
After the initial claim-jumping attempt in the Rose Summit Ward, I bounced around the chapel a bit. It didn’t take long to start putting faces to places in order to stay out of people’s way.
Sitting in the same spot in church is necessary for certain types of parishioners. Some prefer the orthodox form of being in the right place at the right time. Maybe it’s so Heavenly Father won’t have to look so hard to find them.
Others prefer to sit in what I’ve come to understand as “congregational neighborhoods.” Much like the streets they live on, they like knowing the people who inhabit their worship space.
Since I’m a loner with poor impulse control, I have but two choices. I can either sit in the same place every Sunday so those who might find my irreverent presence unsettling can sit somewhere else. Or, if I feel like bothering someone, I can wait until those same people settle in and then go sit behind them. It’s ironic how easy it is to make the super-spiritual grow horns.
Sit behind the most button-down, humble-looking guy on earth, and whisper “rat sh--” a bit too loud in response to something said from the pulpit, and I promise you the back of that man’s head will turn the color of fresh lava and his ears will start forming points.
I try not to do this more than a couple of times a year. That way I can blame it on forgetting my meds.
It’s been six months since I moved into the ward, and I think I’ve found my spot. It’s on a folding chair all the way in the back of the cultural hall.
I can barely see the ward chorister, Sister Unander, waving her arms like she’s guiding fighter jets onto a carrier deck.
Apparently she can see me as well, because last week she told me that my reputation didn’t scare her, and I damn well better start singing.