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Church Furniture.

1. In the furniture of the chancel* the altar* stands first, not because a special intrinsic value attaches to it, but because it is the place of prayer and the table for the distribution of the Lord's Supper (1 Co 10:21; in the E Orthodox and Angl. liturgies the altar is called the “Lord's Table,” a term occasionally found in gen. Prot. circles). Its antecedents were altars for sacrifice and tables for incense. The mensa* is used for service books and the Communion vessels, a special shelf usually holding the cross (see Cross, 4) and candelabra (see 2). The reredos is the screen, or partition wall, behind the altar and is often elaborate with ornament and religious symbolism, usually triptych in form (3 compartments side by side). Altar paintings or statues are usually placed high so as not to interfere with the cross. The pulpit (elevated preaching stand) is, as a rule, on the Gospel* side of the chancel (formerly in the center in many Prot. chs.). Some Prot. chs. used merely a desk on a raised platform; more formal chs. built pulpits that rise from a single shaft or stem and are richly decorated. Panels of the railing may be carved in rich effects or constructed in the form of niches, with statues of the evangelists or major prophets (see Prophecy). The baptismal font should have a definite, permanent place, either in a special baptismal chapel or at the entrance of the sanctuary, but not so as to interfere with movement of communicants. Some fonts are sculptured of marble with a cover of like material or of ebony wood. Simplest fonts consist of a pedestal and basin holder; others are elaborate with sculpture. The lectern (reading desk from which Scripture lessons are read) takes the place of the ancient ambo (elevated pulpit in early Christian chs.; often there were two, one for reading the Gospel, one for the Epistle). Among forms of lecterns is that of an eagle with wings partly extended, symbol of John the Evangelist. See also Epistle Side of Altar.

2. A special shelf above the mensa (see 1) is designed to hold the cross (see Cross, 4) or crucifix* and candelabra (branched candlesticks, usually ornamented). Though the Luth. Ch. defended the crucifix against iconoclastic tendencies, many of its mems. have advocated return to the plain cross.

3. The pieces of a regular Communion set are chalice,* or cups for distributing the wine, flagon,* paten,* and ciborium.*

See also Piscina; Symbolism, Christian.

E. Geldart, A Manual of Church Decoration and Symbolism (London, 1899); J. C. Cox, English Church Fittings, Furniture, and Accessories (London, [1923]); E. J. Weber, Catholic Ecclesiology (Pittsburgh, 1927); F. R. Webber, The Small Church, rev. ed. (Cleveland, 1939); J. B. O'Connell, Church Building and Furnishing (Notre Dame, Indiana, 1955); P. F. Anson, Fashions in Church Furnishings 1840 to 1940 (London, [1960]); J. F. White, Protestant Worship and Church Architecture (New York, 1964); P. H. D. Lang, What an Altar Guild Should Know (St. Louis, 1964).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
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Content Reproduced with Permission

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