Churches need balconies. Balconies are a way for certain people to be present and not be ‘too’ present. Youth. Youth in the balcony have opportunity to be ‘there’ without being ‘there’. A balcony becomes an excellent way to distant yourself from the older set.
Climbing the Stairs – A New Perspective
To this day I recall my first passage up the stairs to the church balcony. I had arrived. It was 9th grade. The older youth welcomed me, initiating me into the ways of balcony behavior—act engaged; stand for the hymns; pass notes discreetly; pretend to listen to the sermon; save spit wads for each other.
Continuing to live there was dependent on abiding by these critical rules. No balcony members wanted the pastor’s attention during worship. Such a public shaming meant certain banishment to the main floor. At all costs, this was to be avoided.
Once in the balcony—always in the balcony. Ask anyone up there which was more important, “Where you sat or what you heard?” and balcony seating was most critical. Though unstated, this trip up 13 stairs was a more longed for life passage than confirmation.
Rites of Passage
The late Nelson Mandela in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom recounts his tribal custom of transitioning to adulthood. In his community the boundaries for coming of age were crystal clear. Complete the tribal rites of passage and you were no longer a child. You knew it and so did everyone else.
Finding a Grace Space
In our culture, those adult rites of passage aren’t so evident. That’s why we need balconies. A balcony is a grace space. No one under/over a certain age should be allowed up there. There youth are granted a safe space to have one foot in the door and one foot outside. There you tacitly tell these ‘in between’ folks, we want you here even at a time when they are unsure about being here. They just may catch a glimpse of a future worth living, a calling that Jesus offers.
We don’t have a balcony. Since we don’t, why don’t you become a balcony? You—the one who provides needed grace space.
Yearning for such living,
David Sloop, Grace Interim PastorTags: church balcony, Rite of Passage, teenagers