Monday, August 24, 2009

What Would Visitors Think?

Yesterday one of my fellow choir members asked me what a visitor would think about our church based on the way our chancel is arranged.

What a great question!

Most Presbyterian churches have a communion table (don't call it an altar!) with the symbols of communion on it in the center; a pulpit to one side and a lecturn on the other. A cross is usually front and center in some way.

Our church is having space and logistical issues between a growing traditional choir and music program at the late service and the popular contemporary music of an earlier service. Sharper conceptual minds than mine are noodling about solutions, but meanwhile there is no lecturn or pulpit (the pastors preach without notes and the scripture readings are projected on screens). The communion table is not in place unless it is communion Sunday. The pipe organ console and choir loft are in the center. A very large cross and abstract stained glass wall are behind the choir. To one side is a piano and to the other is a large set of drums, left over from the previous service because there is not enough time to move it safely out of the way.

My friend suggested a visitor would conclude from the arrangement that music was the center of worship. She's probably right.

What do you think your chancel suggests to a visitor about your church's emphasis in worship?


Presbyterian Gal said...

The church where my mom, son and I attend now is famous for weddings. The chancel is beautiful. A huge stained glass window, a large round stone communion table where a large bouquet of flowers sits every Sunday, with a beautiful quartz like cross above. For me it gives a sense of rest, safety and peace so I can focus on God.

Reformed Catholic said...

At the church where we were at prior to coming to PloddingTown PA, we had built a new sanctuary in 2004.

We designed it to be easily used by both the contemporary and traditional services.

The front of the sanctuary is raised up about 2 feet has a large platform that can hold a full praise band for the contemporary service, or the full choir (on built-in risers) for the traditional service. There are no choir pews, instead we use very nice wood chairs.

In both services, the communion table is situated at the front of the raised platform on the same level with the congregation. It holds two candlesticks for the traditional service only (I had a problem with that, but that was my Catholic roots coming out), as well as an open Bible and brass cross which are out for both services. Under all of that is a parament that reflects the current liturgical color of the day.

From the looks of the picture in your blog post, its possible that you could do this also.

Reformed Catholic said...

Oh I forgot, for the contemporary service, there is a small wooden lectern placed at the front of the raised platform. For the traditional service, a full pulpit is rolled out, with a lectern cover cloth in liturgical color.

John Edward Harris said...

Since the picture does not fit the description, I am going with the description. As a Presbyterian I would have problems with the fact that there is no table present unless the Eucharist is being celebrated. In the church I serve we have a table, with chalice, flagon, and plates, every Sunday, but I still have problems with the fact that the table is pushed against the wall altar style and brought out only for the Sacrament.

Quotidian Grace said...

The picture is NOT a photo of the sanctuary of our church, just a photo of a generic Protestant church. I should have made that clear in the post. Sorry!

David Walters said...

I am troubled. that like so many churches today, that the communion table has been move out of the way. The seems to violate out theological understanding of the central nature of sacraments in our worship. To replace with music as a central focus borders on idolatry. Music should only serve as an enabler of worship.

Rev Kim said...

This is a great ordination exam question! (she says as she prepares to read ords in a couple of months).

I agree with your friend. The Directory for Worship in the BoO has some great words about the theology of the sanctuary and the presence of the symbols of our faith. As a couple of commenters noted, I have a big problem with the communion table - and the baptismal font, for that matter - not being present or being pushed out of the way. Our chancel is set up much like the one in the photo. My home church actually had a central pulpit, too, with the communion table below, to symbolize the centrality of the Word and the link between Word and Sacrament.

Dave and I had a few go-rounds with the wedding coordinator at my home church regarding the communion table. We used the rite from the BCW that is the Service of the Lord's Day, with the vows, etc., coming after the affirmation of faith. We also had communion. The wedding coordinator kept wanting us to move the communion table over to the side "because otherwise no one will be able to see you." We explained - in three separate conversations about this, no less (yeah, she *really* didn't like what we were doing) that what was more important to us was that the proclamation of the Word and Lord's Supper be central.

Cheesehead said...

We have "font wars" here at St Stoic.

I am pretty sure that I am the only person here at the church I serve who sees the font as anything other than an annoying accessory to be moved willy-nilly out of the way when it is not "needed". Somebody keeps sticking it back in the corner, "out of the way."

I've done my teaching moments, I've spoken with session, the worship chair and the choir director. I'm through talking. Now when I find it there I just move it out of the corner right before the start of worship. So far, nobody has asked me why.

It has occurred to me that this might be somebody's idea of a fun way to get my goat. Therefor, I have armed myself with GoatBeGone for those moments. I just cheerfully put it back where Jesus had in in the first place ;)

Reformed Catholic said...

GoatBeGone ... I've got to remember that one ;)