Please don’t worship in the round

Small congregations, or small groups within congregations, have the tenacious habit of pulling a set of chairs into a circle for worship. The idea is that this is intimate, thus warm and friendly. Thus good.

But there’s another way of looking at worship in the round that argues against it.

1. The circle is invariably closed. It needs to be broken open to admit participants, which is awkward for newcomers or latecomers. It is fixed in size, meaning it literally must be deformed to accommodate more. Both requires the cooperation of others, who will be strangers if you are new. And draws attention.

2. If the service has one or two speakers, up to half of the group will get a rear or sharp side view, and most people will be twisted in their seats.

3. Not a problem for everyone, but you will watch people pray, or make an effort to not do so. And others will watch you. No room for a private thought, a private tear.

It’s worth remembering that newcomers may not be there too meet you in worship. Even for small groups, sitting in rows has its well-deserved place.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Excellent points, especially the concern for privacy. (Introverts of the World, Unite! Well, let’s at least get in the same room . . . a big room . . . and not too close.) Let’s add to the no-no list, please, enforced hand holding.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.