Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

Welcome to Varied Expressions of Worship

This blog will be written from an orthodox Christian point of view. There may be some topic that is out of bounds, but at present I don't know what it will be. Politics is a part of life. Theology and philosophy are disciplines that we all participate in even if we don't think so. The Bible has a lot to say about economics. How about self defense? Is war ethical? Think of all the things that someone tells you we should not touch and let's give it a try. Everything that is a part of life should be an expression of worship.

Keep it courteous and be kind to those less blessed than you, but by all means don't worry about agreeing. We learn more when we get backed into a corner.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Opus 2011-63, Church Architecture and Style

Have you ever visited a church that is from a different tradition than yours?  Have you ever noticed that the differences in the building are as obvious as the contrasts in worship.  There are reasons for this.  Architecture reflects theology as much as worship style.

Start off with the building itself.  Have you noticed that Catholic churches are built in the shape of a cross.  It isn’t always obvious because of space limitations but notice that there are two naves, one on each side.  This gives the floor plan, seen from above, the rough shape of a cross.  Some non-catholic churches also have this feature if they are old enough.

What is in the center?  When you are facing the front, what feature is the focus of attention?  In Roman Catholic churches it is a table called an altar.  This is the place that the host is offered up and the miracle of transubstantiation takes place.  In order for the transformation to take place the altar must have a relic from a saint inside it.  That ceremony, when the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine becomes His blood, is the central act of Catholic worship.  It is what makes it worship.  Catholics have not been known for their preaching or singing over the years.  The emphasis is on the sacrifice.  You will notice this in some mainline Protestant churches also.  I know I have seen this feature in Lutheran churches.

In the church I was raised in we had a communion table and the altar was the low bench across the front of the church which was used by seekers in an evangelistic service.  It was sometimes called the mourner’s rail. 

Catholic churches have special containers and plumbing to support their view of communion.  Since they believe that the elements actually become the body and blood of Christ they are treated with reverence.  There is a special piece of furniture called a tabernacle for any extra host and it is stored in a vessel lined with pure gold.  The sink where the cup is rinsed has a special drain that runs onto the ground and not into the sewer.  Remember, they consider the wine to be the actual blood of Christ.  You may not agree, but show a bit of courtesy to them.  Don’t ever take communion in a Catholic or Lutheran church if you do not belong.

Many Protestant denominations put the pulpit in the center of the platform.  This is a declaration that they believe the proclaimed word is to be the center of worship.  Preaching is central.  Churches that do not emphasize preaching tend to have the pulpit on the side.  They will sometimes have two pulpits, one for reading the Gospels and all other scripture from the other.

Where is the choir?  In liturgical churches it is often to the side or hidden in a balcony.  This again stresses the importance of the communion sacrifice.  You don’t want anything to distract from that. 

What direction do the piano and organ face.  I noticed this last Sunday in the Baptist church I was attending.  A man was in front supposedly leading the singing, but the pianist had the piano turned so that he could not see the direction.  As you might guess, the guy at the piano also had a microphone and tended to get everyone going his way instead of the way of the official leader.

Does your church have a lot of candles and incense?  Where they are placed and when they are lit has significance depending on the season of the church year.  In liturgical churches the candles must be at least 51% bee’s wax for the sake of purity.

How about colors?  If you attend your basic evangelical church, colors are a statement of an interior decorator, but in liturgical churches each season has a specific color.  The altar clothe, pulpit drapes and personal wardrobe of the pastor all reflect this.  Red, green, purple, white all are used for a purpose.

Some of you may have noticed a rack with numbers on one side in the front.  When I was a kid that was the Sunday School report.  It told attendance, enrollment and offering at a glance.  In some churches it is the numbers of the hymns to be sung in the service.  No one will announce it, you are expected to be ready.

I am sure there are many other details that have escaped me but next time you are in an unfamiliar sanctuary take some time to look around and ask yourself what you see tells you about the people who worship there.

homo unius libri

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Feel free to agree or disagree but keep it clean, courteous and short. I heard some shorthand on a podcast: TLDR, Too long, didn't read.