Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Disappearing Pulpit

“In Reformed churches, the tradition has been to put the Pulpit in the center because of the centrality of preaching and the Word as a means of grace. The Pulpit is not just a utility stand for the preacher to use to hold his notes, but a weighty visual anchor to point to the significance of the proclaimed Word itself (which is why some churches have favored massive pulpits). In fact, some churches have a big pulpit (with Bible) in the center that is used only for preaching, with a smaller lectern to the side used for other readings and worship leading.

In contemporary times, we’ve seen a reduction of pulpit size generally because of our culture’s increasing emphasis on the person doing the preaching. We don’t want our preachers hiding behind a wall. We want to see them, and connect with them as people, not just with their spoken ideas. That emphasis has its pastor-as-rock-star dangers of course, but it’s also an expression of the incarnated Word. God comes to us not as an idea, but as a person who empties himself of greatness and loves and suffers and dies along side us and in our place. The preacher does the same in trying to bear witness with their whole being.

So I think the way we’ve reduced the pulpit is entirely appropriate, though I’d rather not see the pulpit disappear altogether. The Word is still central. And even more than the Pulpit, we should find a place for the Bible as a visual reminder.”
- Steven Koster

Check out the entire post HERE.


Christian Citizen said...

So is this what you want for Father's Day?

Seriously, I think it's more of a generational & architectural thing. Older churches have larger pulipts.

Wesleyans have been known to REALLY feature pulpits in church architecture (especially Wesley's own church in London), and I've been in a number of Catholic and Anglican church buildings (e.g. the "blue chapel" in Montreal, the Episcopal cathedral in Boston) that have extremely prominent pulpits.

Christian Citizen said...

One other thought: These sorts of pulpits were absolutely necessary in the days before decent sound systems. Try it out next time--speak from the COS stage WITHOUT a mic. Can anyone hear you?

Todd Pruitt said...

I thought this would be the perfect gift! That's a pic I took at Christ Church. It's a beautiful thing. They have an incredible baptismal font that was made in Ireland and given to Christ church in the 18th century when the font was already 400 years old. Enough trivia.

There is definitely a generational element as well as a practical one (no sound systems back then).

However there is something not healthy about the loss of the pulpit in so many churches. I truly believe it communicates the diminishing role of the proclamation of God's Word in God's church. Bar stools and helpful talks have replaced the sacred desk and "thus says the Lord."

I don't want to establish any kind of legalistic standard. There are plenty of churches with beautiful pulpits but impoverished spirits. I am just concerned that performance stages have replaced what ought to be more 'sacred' (small 's') space.

Proper pulpits could be a means of teaching the place of God's Word in the church. That was certainly the intention of the Reformers and Puritans.

Christian Citizen said...

It certainly satisfies the imagination, but here is Luther's pulpit. CALVIN, on the other hand. Hus didn't get the memo. Edwards has your back; This remarkable pulpit is in the Catholic cathedral of St. Sulpice. Here is St. Patrick's in NYC. Another RC.

Maybe the difference is the centrality of preaching, rather than it being a Reformed thing. The Catholic Communion has some incredible history of preachers--consider Savanarola, for example.

Todd Pruitt said...

I would say that the Roman church has a spotty record (at best) on preaching. Savanarola was quite a firey guy to be sure but not much of an exegete.

Karen said...

COS used to have a B I G pulpit. Maybe you could have it brought out of storage? :-)

Todd Pruitt said...

I have heard about the GIANT pulpit. I'm actually quite happy with one we have now. But when I first arrived at COS the flimsy music stand wasn't working.