aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Form vs. function

Too often, church furniture and furnishings are designed for how they look in a sanctuary, not how they're used. The same is true of how the church or chapel is laid out, especially when it comes to movement. It all looks beautiful while sitting in the pews, but if you're leading worship, it requires as much tenacity to wrestle with the liturgical environment as Jacob had to use on the angel at Peniel.

Pulpits are often too short for the preacher's height (and not easily adjustable). The reading desk upon which the speaker places Bible and notes/manuscript is often too narrow, and sometimes tilted awkwardly so that everything slides downhill. Built-in microphones are often ornery and, most especially, in the way.

Altars/communion tables are often too narrow for their length, and at heights that make sense visually, but not for handling communion vessels. (The fact that they're often piled high with flowers or semi-sacred bric-a-brac is another issue.) Communion rails are usually set at the right height for those kneeling, but depending upon the height of the dais, they sometimes make those serving have to lean over at precarious or painful angles.

Then there are the baptismal fonts you can't get your hands inside. And the sanctuaries where the placement of a piano or organ was obviously an afterthought. Don't even get me started on Scout camp chapels.

My point is, we design -- and buy -- church furniture and furnishings with little sense of how they are to be used. We see pictures in our minds, and then we try to make use of what we have realized. Well, we do the best we can.

But boy, how we need a couple of guys like Bezalel and Oholiab. They were the craftsmen God called (Exodus Chapter 31) to make or oversee the making of all the holy whatchamadoodles for the Tabernacle: the tent itself, the ark of the covenant, the table, the utensils, the lampstand, the vestments, even the anointing oil and the incense. Most folks get bored reading about all the stuff God commanded Moses and Co. to make for his worship. It's as exciting as reading a technical manual. But the stuff made for the worship of God back then was both beautiful and functional. It was meant to be used, so it was handy as well as awe-inspiring. It was also portable, so they didn't just put it up and leave it there to gather dust.

(Today's rant comes from an internet search on pulpit design, following a conversation with somebody. I found lots of ready-made pulpits in all sorts of designs, but no articles on what to take into consideration in designing a pulpit for use. And some of those designs I swear could not be used for anything resembling preaching, in addition to looking like something designed for Marvin the Martian's ready room.)

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