Wichita State University

Taking out the pews, taking out the pews, we will come prostrating, taking out the pews

Taking out the pews, taking out the pews, we will come prostrating, taking out the pews

Now here is a sad little story from this land of ours in which almost anything can be turned into a match to light the fuse on a new battle in the culture wars.

In this case we are not talking about a battle in pews -- because the story focuses on pews that were removed.

Let's go straight to the place that most educators across the country will see the story -- The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Changes in the interior design of a campus chapel at Wichita State University -- lambasted in some online circles as the work of Muslim students -- were, in fact, suggested by Christian staff members and students. The Wichita Eagle reports a former campus minister told the newspaper that removing Grace Memorial Chapel’s pews was intended to make the space more flexible, and that he had suggested the change.
But that’s not how Jean Ann Cusick, an alumna of the Kansas university, saw it. In a Facebook post this month, Ms. Cusick wrote that the changes in the chapel were an “accommodation” of Muslim students. Soon, news outlets like Fox News and Christian Today were weighing in.

Now a personal word. I must admit that the first thing that popped into my mind when I connected "pews" with "remove" -- in the context of Wichita -- was, I am sure, not a connection that would have made sense to others.

The first thing that I thought of was the nationally known establishment called Eighth Day Books -- which may be the best Eastern Orthodox bookstore (mixing in coffee, tea and beer) in all of North America. This is evidence of a very lively and growing Orthodox community in that zip code and I assumed -- naturally! -- that this might have led to a thriving community of Orthodox students on the major campus in town.

Now you know what ancient Christians like the Orthodox are going to want to do with pews, don't you? Get. Rid. Of. Them.

Think tradition! It's hard to do lots of bows and prostrations in a room full of wooden furniture. Right?

But, alas, this was not what people were worried about.

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