CHURCH BUILDING ARCHITECTURAL TERMS

Humans can’t resist naming everything, and the parts of a church building have not escaped this habit. To be honest, it’s more efficient to describe a space in the church building with one word than a whole string of words describing the purpose of the space. Our sanctuary is a modern building, so it is built without some of the spaces included in traditional cathedrals. Still, the traditional terms have been adapted.

Sacristy – Room where vestments are stored. It was where clergy “robed up” before worship. In our building, the sacristy is to the right of where the choir sits.

Chancel – Space in the front of the sanctuary where the choir sits and other worship “action” takes place.

Pulpit – The massive stand from which the preacher speaks.

Lectern – The smaller-scaled stand from which lay (unordained) persons read scripture or address the congregation.

Churches with Anglican origins, including Methodists, retain the traditional view that the pulpit is a hallowed space where only God’s message may be proclaimed. Scripture is understood and interpreted as the story of a people’s faith journey, written through the centuries by humans reflecting upon their experience of the divine. Therefore, it should be read from a less commanding position in the chancel.

Altar – Space, usually delineated by a low railing, that separates the congregation from the chancel. It might be thought of as the place where God and humans meet.

Nave – The space where the congregation sits, usually furnished with pews or other seating. You won’t likely hear this term used by our church.

Narthex – The foyer or lobby of a church building, where congregants enter, greet each other and prepare themselves for worship. It is also the space where departing congregants bid each other farewell unti next week, when they will meet again.

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