Sacred Space

Baptists are not always very keen on the idea of sacred space. Some point to the idea that the whole world is God’s creation, others to the idea that we can encounter God anywhere. Either way, every space might be thought of as sacred space. Other Baptists take issue with symbols and signs thinking that even crosses and candles might themselves become idols detracting from the true worship of God. Yet even if we agree with these ways of thinking, we surely can still hold out for some imaginative expression in the design of space usually set aside for worship. The worship-spaces in some of today’s buildings lack any symbolic focus. They look more like school halls, auditoriums, concert halls or theatres than like sanctuaries. We, at Didsbury Baptist Church, are thinking about these issues because our building needs work and we are planning to make some significant changes to it both inside and out. While we ask how we should reorder our sanctuary for the future, we are left still to make the most of what we have now. One of the ways we are able to do this is through the use of symbols and lighting. Steve, our lighting technician, works hard to produce an environment that speaks of the welcoming love of God for all who enter our doors. The photo above shows how the sanctuary looked just before we lit the candles in advance of our candlelight carol service on Christmas Eve. I think the place looked spectacular. Great job Steve, many thanks!

2 Responses

  1. In traditional non-conformist churches, the overt symbolism of Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism was left out, but the clues to it being a place of worship were still there. There were still stained-glass, arched Windows; still a focus around a frontal area with fixed seating; still the floor-plan in the shape of a cross; and still high ceilings. Designs may have abstracted from the robes; oil paintings; or the ornate imagery in wood and stone, but the church sanctuary still retained the clues to the function. In particular greater emphasis was given to the pulpit, symbolizing the central role of preaching. Some modern designs make these clues so abstract as to be missed by the uninitiated and to be alien to those whose only experience of church is a cathedral visit.
    At Didsbury, the clues are more overt. There are the arched windows the coloured glass within (but faded and irregular) and the cross shape in the floor plan. However, a problem with the new layout is that the congregation will face a (currently) white wall, rather than an arched window. It is making this backdrop to the preaching something that requires careful thought. We cannot get a modern Michelangelo to create a massive mural, (even if we had the money), but will need to think creatively how this can enhance the worship focus. It should project a design that implies “that this is a place of worship, and you are welcome”. Steve achieved it explicitly with the lights for a Christmas setting. How this is to be achieved on a permanent basis is more challenging.

  2. Yeah Steve!

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