Adam Kelchner was the church’s new pastor - and twice while preaching, he saw a man and his wife sitting way back in the foyer. “Folks don’t typically sit back there during the service. He was in a wheelchair and they were longtime members of the church and he had a spinal condition,” explains the pastor, who leads Camden, Tennessee, First United Methodist Church.
This is not right
The awkward situation bothered Pastor Adam immensely. “It was heartbreak that somebody physically could not be in sacred space with everybody else. And I wanted to do whatever it was as quick as I could to rectify that!”
His idea was to shorten a pew to give Jerry Lamb room to park his wheelchair in an area with other worshippers. And his wife, Laura, could be there right beside him. Pastor Adam asked church trustees to greenlight his idea. “It was a pretty easy ‘sell’ for our trustees ‘to get this family in here with the rest of us.’”
Jerry and Laura expressed appreciation, but didn’t want the church to go to any trouble to help them. Understanding that, Pastor Adam still believed it was the right thing to do.
A quick fix
“Two days' worth of work. $2,500 dollars and it was done.” A trusted contractor was brought in to shorten two pews – opposite each other, so the seating would match.
More than local news
This act of kindness ricocheted into national news when an Associated Press religion editor learned of the pew shortening and arranged for a feature story.
Why has this gotten such attention? “I think folks are probably moved to see a community of faith doing good works in this kind of way – and good news is a little hard to come by sometimes,” Pastor Adam smiles.
There’s much more to this story – including a number of people, including a cancer patient, who now use the open spaces to take part in worship. You will be encouraged as you listen to our complete podcast interview just below.