Crossing the Divide

Crossing the Divide January 25, 2024

Looking down the center aisle in a church sanctuary

::: all hyperlinks contain secret messages ::: 


The old wooden pews in the Nazarene church I grew up in required a sort of sidewinding to maneuver one’s way out.

But it wasn’t just Nazarene pews that demanded this certain sort of leg-bumping-hymnal-rack-dodging-side-shuffle to reach the aisles. The pews in other churches worked much the same way – regardless of padding or denominational affiliation.

This led many of us children to slide-scoot on our bottoms, down the pew towards the ornate end pieces that led to wide-stance freedom.

Sometimes, when long-winded adults stood like talking roadblocks in our way, one might high-step a hasty trot down the pew seats themselves, clearing stacks of hard-back hymnals and leather-bound pages of the Good Book like so many hurdles in a race. 

Joyful or no – it was a bad idea to make the horsey sounds out loud. 

Other times,  we could escape by army-crawling under the length of pews until we reached *White Knuckle Row and the double swinging doors that opened to the lobby and Sunday school hall.

Beyond that lay front porch freedom and all the games our well-starched church clothes would allow.


The two rows of pews were flanked by narrow aisles to either side, with one central aisle commencing at the Common Table   (This Do In Remembrance of Me ). 

The narrow aisles to the left and right of the pews allowed late-comers to slip in or children who’d played too long at the water fountain to slip out (and commence playing with hand soap in the bathrooms.) The side-wings were favored by guest speakers and special musicians making their way forward and toward amplified speech and song.

The wide center aisle allowed silvered saints to be wheeled in and parked near the front row. It provided an ample avenue for “Brothers” and “Sisters” from the neighborhoods of Left and Right Pew to lay aside their rivalries and mingle in one unified double-wide-church-family stew.
Left, right or center, all aisles led to the Cross, the Bread and the Wine



Oh yes, there were rivalries – with mild-mannered, unassuming names like “Visitor’s Drive”, where each side competed to bring more new visitors, winning the right to cut the other side’s tie.… if you know, you know. If you don’t, ask me sometime.

Back then, those who sat on the ‘Other Side’ were akin to Larsen’s characters from “The Far Side” to me – kinda the same and obviously, kinda weird; funny looking, even.

Those with positional opposition to me shared common ground and uncommon backgrounds, not unlike the Bride and Groom sides at a wedding.

How must one have been raised to be sitting over there?! 

Not in a godly home, that was for sure.  :: author jests:: 

Since then, over the years, and in different congregations, I’ve seen the kind of rivalries arise that are unkind.

Disagreements across the aisle – divisions and dishonesties – none meant to outdo each other in love. (Rom12) 

As in our mortal units, cobbled together with well-intended vows, we sadly find dysfunction in our Kingdom family, too.


C.S. Lewis invites us to watch as Screwtape and Wormwood  oil that center aisle into a slippery-slope-slip-and-slide

SCREWTAPE (1): When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands… When he gets to his pew and looks around him he sees just that selection of his neighbors whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbors. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like “the body of Christ” and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains…Provided that any of those neighbors sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.

At his present stage, you see, he has an idea of “Christians” in his mind which he supposes to be spiritual but which, in fact, is largely pictorial. His mind is full of togas and sandals and armor and bare legs and the mere fact that the other people in church wear modern clothes is a real-though of course an unconscious-difficulty to him. Never let it come to the surface; never let him ask what he expected them to look like.

SCREWTAPE (2): …if the patient knows that the woman with the absurd hat is a fanatical bridge-player or the man with squeaky boots a miser and an extortioner-then your task is so much the easier. All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question “If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?” You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is! Handle him properly and it simply won’t come into his head. He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy to have any real humility yet. What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk.

At bottom, he still believes he has run up a very favorable credit-balance in the Enemy’s ledger by allowing himself to be converted, and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these “smug”, commonplace neighbors at all.

SCREWTAPE (3): It is not, in fact, very different from the conviction she would have felt at the age of ten that the kind of fish-knives used in her father’s house were the proper or normal or “real” kind, while those of the neighboring families were “not real fish-knives” at all



I recently learned of church people who, due to a disagreement, are no longer friends, “only Family”

That is to say, they are stuck together in Christ, but do not plan to like it very much.

(Thanks a lot, Jesus!)

I think my friends have a misunderstanding. This is not what being family means.

My guess is they are far from the only ones, not only in my church, but throughout our global church family, too.

(All we blood-bought belong to Him, dontchaknow? )

If we took a survey this Sunday, we’d no doubt find all sorts of stories about why Believers under the same roof are sitting on opposite sides of the room.

Elephants and Donkeys come to mind, as do Israel and Palestine. 

JESUS:By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.(John13) 

And how will we know it is love? 

Love is patient, kind, unbothered and unfailing…  (1Cor13)


Growing up, whenever we “met in the middle” we would often sing this little hymn; the pianist continuing to play as hands were shook and necks were hugged (not wrung!) in our brief interlude of fellowship.

If you know, you know…

….  the only permissible way to read this next part is in Bill Gaither’s singing voice. If you didn’t know, now you do. I don’t make the rules. 

Family of God by Bill Gaither 

You will notice we say “brother and sister” ’round here,

It’s because we’re a family and these are so near;

When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,

And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,

I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!

Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,

For I’m part of the family,

The Family of God.

From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King,

No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;

From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,

I’m not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong! 



I am a daughter, sibling, and mom – all lending to my awareness that “crossing the aisle” is a big ask, but it isn’t impossible.

Whenever I have been the Prodigal, the Proud or the Parent – the required measure of grace was only a mustard seed tall. A little has carried me a long way – even clear across that aisle.

I don’t reckon there is an easy-to-follow-step-by-step guide for this.


Unless, of course… there is:


JESUS:Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven…” (Matt6)

Perhaps, step 1 is simply acknowledging that – Left, Right or Wrong, we are all just a motley-crew-of-ragamuffin-orphans, walking each other Home. 


**the back row , where sinners like to go   :: author jests, author jests! ::

Author’s Note:

The following conversation was a result of my research for this article (a.k.a. phone call to Momma)

ME: Why am I remembering both wooden and padded pews at the church in Martinez? MOMMA: I don’t know why you are remembering that, did you ever go to the North Augusta church?

ME: I don’t know if I ever went to the North Augusta church – I was just a baby. I’ve been told I played Jesus in a Nativity play but I don’t really remember. 

MOMMA: Oh, North Augusta was the Wesleyan church anyway. 

ME: It’s not really important which church they were in, I just remember time-smoothed wood that still seemed like it could leave a splinter but also padded pews – perhaps in the color orange? 

MOMMA: The Wesleyan pews were painted orange. I helped paint them and got some on my new outfit. Your Granny was mad, but I didn’t know why, I bought that outfit myself…I’ve never found that pretty color again…

ME: Did we maybe get new pews at some point? Was there a mix of wood and padded? 

MOMMA: The orange Wesleyan pews were also wood, I remember being glad because I threw up in one of them. Brother Cooley was mad – but I don’t know why – it’s not like I planned it. He thought I could have made it outside, but obviously, I didn’t… You could call Mr. Rutherford to see if he remembers…

My nephews, who she was babysitting at the time, interrupted us then, with a squabble, a brother-slap and the refusal to have one’s diaper changed. With a smile, I let her go to attend their assorted needs. 

Church. Family. Indeed.

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