Sunday, September 5, 2010

Rhetoric for Sundays

This week I will continue on my recent theme of church architecture and what it represents.

Take a look at the first two images, they are similar with some subtle differences (Disclaimer: these images come from a google image search for "church sanctuary", I have no personal knowledge of or axe to grind about any of these churches).

In this first image on the left, one can see several things.  First, the central and dominating image is the stained glass window of the cross.  Below that, in a central location is a table with a Bible and the sacramental elements.  There are various Christian symbols throughout the sanctuary.  This church has both a lectern (on the left) and a pulpit (on the right).  The lectern used for scripture reading and the pulpit used for sermon delivery are pushed to the left and right, to the periphery of the sanctuary.  This church wants to place the focus on the cross, the Bible, and the Lord's supper.

In the second image on the left, there are similarities and subtle differences.  The Cross is still prominent, placed high and in the center.  Also in the center is a table bearing a Bible.  Instead of Christian symbols spread throughout, this church has electronic equipment.  Finally, in the biggest but very subtle shift, the pulpit has been moved to the center.  This church is communicating something entirely different to the congregation.  The pulpit, and thus the preaching and the preacher are now central to worship.  The presence of the electronic equipment is more of a sign that this church is in the process of trying to update their worship style,  yet the architecture remains just as telling.

Alright, one final picture.  This image bears almost no similarity to the previous two.  There is not one cross that I can see.  There are no Christian symbols.  The pulpit is still in the center, but in this church it is clear what the central focus is.  The preacher/motivational speaker/slash rock star.  Notice how the preacher is not only the central focus on stage, he also has his face on the big screen.  The colors and bright lights are reminiscent of a rock concert.  This church elevates the pastor to the center of worship.  Interesting.