Question of the Day: Sanctuary Stylin’

Recently, we discussed the roll of civil religion in the sanctuary – should there be national flags? But, what about just the style of the sanctuary. What should it look like? Where should the lecterns, if any, be placed? A table? a bible? What should be front and center?

I have my preference, but what is yours?

I will say that I do think that a sanctuary style plays a part in the audience’s  participation, but I’ll leave it at that.

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5 Replies to “Question of the Day: Sanctuary Stylin’”

  1. I prefer no flags at all. If there were flags, then every flag should be included to represent the whole of humanity. The flaw with this last approach is that the funds are better spent elsewhere, and so no flags at all is much more preferable. Flags represent the culture and also the secular governments of their countries, and God has no flag that I am aware of. A cross may be appropriate, but again the expense of the decoration should be considered. I believe a carpenter in our church made one out of metal and wood and donated it to the church, though I'm not certain of this.

    Regarding decor of a sanctuary, it should be primarily functional. A lectern is fine, as well as any required instruments, like a piano, etc. The use of a table to host a display Bible that is never read from seems to be a waste of funds and space. The best use I have found for the front table is to hold boxes of tissue, offertory plates, and when serving the Lord's supper.

    I would also prefer chairs to pews, because they can be moved about with comparatively less effort, and the large space used for alternate purposes. Carpeting and upholstery should be selected for color-fastness and resistance to wear. Lighting and other energy using devices should be energy efficient to reduce long-term expenses.

    One of the main things we are guilty of is spending money on decorations that serve no other purpose than to look beautiful. I appreciate beauty and art in many forms, but I don't think our funds should be spent actively pursuing this in a place of worship. Instead it should be used to minister to the poor and other ministries, while the physical location serves its proper utilitarian function. Probably more than two cents worth here.

  2. Lutherans have a fancy word that is thrown around in answer to this question: adiaphora. Meaning, it's non-essential to salvation. That doesn't mean it's non-essential to the members of the church…some of the best fights in Lutheran circles revolve around question of adiaphoron…usually the color of the carpet. The only thing that I really have an opinion on is “what should be front and center” and that is the Cross.

  3. Coming from a liturgical background, I like the style of the Catholic/Episcopal/Anglican church: that is the altar under the Cross, the lectern and pulpit on the sides.

    I agree with Bp. N. T. Wright when he says that it is important for our churches to reflect both our high theology of the Word and our high theology of the Sacraments, especially the Lord's Supper (or “Eucharist”).

    As for flags, They shouldn't be ON the altar, but I have no problem with them being in the back of the church, by the doors. As for cost, they can be donated by a parishioner in honor of a loved one. You might say they can then serve as a reminder that we are going out to the 'mission field of our country'.

  4. In building our new church, we are looking into the use of chairs with kneelers in place of pews, for the reason you suggested: able to configure the worship space for a multitude of purposes, such as more intimate prayer services or healing prayer.

  5. I'm more of the–if it's not commanded, it's forbidden, Sufficiency of Scripture type.

    Adiaphora for the Christian Life, but when we meet as the people of God to proclaim His Word…..we have to avoid the tendency to Judaize (re-introduce OT typology) or Paganize (introduce cultural symbols and expressions) and stick strictly to the simple data we are given.

    What is a sanctuary? Are we looking to Messianic typology- the tutelage- weak and beggarly elements to instruct the New Covenant body which is not in type and shadow but enjoys the substance?

    Just throwing it out there…..

    So because of the principle I mentioned above……AND because I think Sacralism is one of the greatest threats in the history of the church…..when I see a flag, I walk out. I assume these folks, bless their hearts, have no clue as to what they're doing. We are the Pilgrim People, the Kingdom…not Christo-Americans.


    John A.

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