Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 19 April |
Saint of the Day: Pope Saint Leo IX
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

History repeats itself with pew reservations

mass

Tolga Akmen | AFP

Philip Kosloski - published on 06/06/20

During the 19th and early 20th centuries many Catholics in English-speaking countries reserved their pew ahead of time to ensure their spot at Mass.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries many Catholic and Protestant churches in English-speaking countries had policies where parishioners needed to reserve their spot at Sunday services.

Does this sound familiar?

Many churches that are beginning to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, can only do so by establishing a system where parishioners reserve their spot at Mass ahead of time!

Currently churches are enacting such policies because they are restricted in the number of people allowed in a building, such as 25% of the church’s capacity. Furthermore, churches are required by social distancing to place family groups together, while keeping them separate from other parishioners.

In some places tickets are being issued for Mass where seating assignments are clearly indicated.

Interestingly, this is not the first time churches reserved pews for families on a regular basis, though for much different reasons.

Beginning in the early 19th century, churches needed additional funds to install pews for their parishioners. In order to pay for these pews, they enacted “pew rental” fees.

According to the Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, “the first rental of pews [in Philadelphia] took place on April 1, 1827, the charge for the choice locations being five dollars per quarter … In addition to the five dollars for pew rent, the Catholic pew-holders were charged seventy-five cents per quarter, and collected with the pew rent, to furnish wine, candles, fuel and other needed supplies for church uses.”

Linda Zahorik further explains in her article for The Compass, “Third Council of Baltimore (1884) encouraged Catholic churches to charge ‘pew rent’ as a means to raise revenue for church maintenance and support of the clergy. By renting a pew, a person was assured of their specific place for any Mass they attended. Those unable to pay pew rent where relegated to any of the unassigned seats in the church. If you attend a church that was built prior to the 1950s, look at the pew ends. There you might still find a number or a bracket were a name could have been inserted. These are remnants for recording pew rent.”

It’s possible that some of these churches that still retain pew numbers or brackets could use them again as they take reservations for Sunday Mass during this time of re-opening.

While pew reservations are not ideal, as Mass is not intended to be celebrated for only a select few, it is the current state of affairs in the world and will likely last throughout the summer of 2020.


ST THERESE CATHEDRAL,CHURCH PEWS

Read more:
This is why church pews were invented


VIGIL FOR LIFE

Read more:
An easy guide to standing, sitting, and kneeling during Mass

Tags:
Devotions and FeastsLiturgy
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
SPANISH FLU
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
2
EUCHARIST
Philip Kosloski
5 Fascinating facts about Jesus in the Eucharist
3
MASS
Philip Kosloski
5 Essential things used at Mass and their symbolism
4
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
5
COUPLE
Cerith Gardiner
7 Joys to be had from a lengthy marriage
6
OSORNO
Brett Salkeld
How to vaccinate like a Catholic
7
PRINCE PHILIP
Cerith Gardiner
The lasting lesson from the late Prince Philip
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.