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Learn more about our worship space at St. John's:
God can be worshiped, privately, anywhere. He is worshiped when we give our attention to His Word, honor it as our greatest treasure, and live devoted lives in accordance with it. There should, however, be a proper setting for corporate worship. Our worship space should be a place that befits His glory. A unique space which is clearly identified as God’s house, the place of His presence. What we hear and see in our place of worship is intended to support the proclamation of the Word. The setting for worship should provide a proper mood and atmosphere for the worship of God’s glory. Just as nothing trite or meaningless should be introduced into the liturgy, so the place of worship should serve to reinforce the message and mission of Jesus Christ. One Church architect notes: “The worship space of the church building either enhances or hinders corporate worship... To make a building serve the liturgy requires serious consideration. From anthropologists and psychologists we learn how ritual and the ritual use of space express and reinforce people’s identity... No church building is ecclesiologically innocent: it expresses - and forever thereafter impresses - a sense of what it means to belong to the church, the respective roles of different ministries, the wealth or poverty of the Christian imagination, the sense of where Christ is to be found and so on.”
Narthex- Entrance into the church proper... May be like the court of the Gentiles in the OT temple. In the Early Church the Baptistry was located in the Narthex, or in a room just to the side of the Narthex, but not in the chancel. This was to denote that this was the sacrament by which one entered the fellowship.
Nave - The place in the church for the worshiping congregation to gather. Originally there were no seats, but the worshipers stood and knelt according to the rubrics of the service. Nave comes from “navis” which is Latin for ship. The appearance of the nave, with it’s exposed beams and vaulted ceilings, was intended to remind the worshiper of the inside of a ship such as Noah’s ark. In here we are delivered through the storms of life. We are purified and prepared to disembark into a new world. The ship is the ancient symbol for the Church.
Chancel - Derived from the word “cancelli” meaning screens. In some churches a screen or grill may separate this area from the nave, much like the curtain in the Old Testament Temple. This is the equivalent of the “Holy of Holies” where the ark of the Lord’s presence was located. This is the most holy place in the Lord’s house and should be approached with the utmost respect and humility. We should consider a good rule of thumb to be this: “If I am not serving in that area, I have no business being there. If I am serving in that area, I should do so with great humility and reverence.”
Preaching Platform / Outer Chancel - If it exists this is another level above the Nave, yet outside the altar rail. The worshiper will find some of the appointments (baptismal font, pulpit, lectern) in this area. This is where the word is read and proclaimed, and baptism may be administered. It involves the means of grace which are appropriate even for the uninitiated.
Sanctuary / Chancel Proper - The area at the “liturgically” eastern most part of the chancel, where the altar is located and if the consecrated elements are “tabernacled” they would also be located.
Liturgical Direction - The altar is traditionally located at the east end of the sanctuary. This is because the rising sun has served as a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. Also to the east of us lies the Holy Land, the scene of Christ’s passion and resurrection.
Kneelers - 1. We stand in honor and praise. 2. We sit in order to receive instruction from God’s Word. 3. We kneel to confess our sins and to pray; kneeling is the posture of humility.
Unity - The unified design in the appointments in our sanctuary remind us of the oneness of God’s message in Word and Sacrament. Everywhere the Gospel is put into action, whether expounded and proclaimed or attached to visible elements in the Sacraments it is tied to the other places where the Gospel is found in this Holy Place.
Pulpit - a raised reading desk for Bible readings and for preaching. Note the three light accents which remind us of the blessings of the Triune God.
Lectern - In our worship space there is none. In the absence of a lectern we follow the liturgical practice of reading the Old Testament and Epistle lessons from the liturgical south and then moving north with the Gospel. This rubric comes from our Lord’s commission in Acts 1:8.
Stained glass windows - Artistic representations in glass and other media were placed in churches to help teach the faith, especially to the young. Our stained glass, designed by our sainted member, Marlin Schmidt. The 10,000 piece windows were built by the hands of our own members as a pictorial conception of the ascension of Christ. As Jesus returns to His heavenly Father a great light shines upon the world. He is greeted by the angels of the Lord who rejoice in Christ’s resurrection and His victory of the cross. Jesus is the Savior, the Lord and the King, symbolized by the fish and the crown on the cross. Having completed His earthly mission, Christ brings light and life into the world which is represented by the sun and the emblazoned cross. The Holy Spirit, symbolized by the doves, now descends upon the saints on earth who are represented by the praying figures. The circle represents the promise of eternal life.
The Baptismal Font - The word font comes from the Latin word which means spring or fountain. The font is the container into which the water for Holy Baptism is placed. The font may be housed in its own room “the baptistry” outside of the Nave. This symbolizes that baptism is the sacrament by which one enters into the congregation of believers. The font may also be placed at the entrance to the nave or in the nave near the chancel but preferably not in the chancel proper. Our baptismal font is of a unique design which is pregnant with spiritual meaning. The cover of the baptismal font causes us to reflect on the words of St. Peter in I Peter 3:19-21 and Matthew 28:19-20. It represents the world, covered by the flood. The eight heads are for the eight who were saved through the cleansing waters of the flood which gives us a picture of our own baptism. The flood that saves us flows from the cross and from Christ. The twelve figures going out from the cross are the apostles, representative of all Christians, who are obeying the Lord’s great commission to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching.
The Altar - The altar may be designed either like a table or tomb. The table-like form is the more ancient type of altar; reminding us of the table where Christ instituted the Holy Supper in which He feeds us His body and blood which was sacrificed on the cross, and in which we receive the benefits of the same. The tomblike form is the result of the early church’s worship in the catacombs. Here the worshipers often used the top slab of a martyr’s tomb as an altar.
Our altar, a “tablelike” freestanding altar, is the focal point of our worship. The “I AM” reminds us that God is the Author of all being, the fountain and source of all life. When our Lord, in Christ, says, “I AM,” He is declaring the great name by which He revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3. On the top of the Altar, on what is called the “Mensa” or table, are carved five Greek crosses. These symbolize the five holy wounds of Jesus by which we are healed. By these wounds Christ has offered the sacrifice that has made perfect all the Old Testament sacrifices.
The Reredos - The reredos is the wall or screen behind the altar on which may be attached symbolic carvings, crosses, or candles. On our reredos is attached a large, dark, wooden cross which rises above the chancel against the stark white reredos. This is to lead the eyes of the worshiper to ever drawn to the symbol of their salvation. In addition to the cross, eleven candlesticks are attached to the reredos. These candles symbolize the faithful disciples and all true Christians who have been called to be a light in the darkness of this world (Eph. 5:1-2; Matt. 5:14-16). The order of the apostles would have been Peter, John, James, and then Judas, to whom had been entrusted the treasury. The fourth candlestick, which is missing, represents the betrayer and God’s earnest warning to us all from Revelation 2:4-5: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you quickly and remove your candlestick from its place.” On our reredos is also located a Credance Shelf or Table - This is the table or shelf upon which are placed the unconsecrated elements for Holy Communion. These are things which have been set apart for a holy purpose.