03 August 2013

The Importance of the Pulpit

I've long thought that one of the more elegant pieces of ecclesiastical furniture is a well-made pulpit.  Of course, living as we do in the age of Fr. Bob Polyester wandering the aisles with a cordless microphone, it's made the grand pulpits of yesteryear into something quite unfamiliar to many people.  In fact, I've had visitors to the church point and ask what it is.

When we built the church I looked long and hard for someone capable of building a fine pulpit, and was delighted to have been successful in my search.  I remember asking if he could build a wineglass pulpit, and he said that if I'd tell him what it is, he'd try.  I drew a rough sketch on a scrap of paper, and I think the result is very pleasing indeed. 

The preacher climbs seven steps, passing a small statue of St. John Vianney midway, and stands beneath a traditional sounding-board.  I find that a formal pulpit such as ours accomplishes a couple of things.  First, it reminds the preacher that he's doing something important; that it's not enough to throw together a few random thoughts, and call it a sermon.  Second, it reminds the congregation that they're hearing something important; namely, the exposition of Holy Scripture and an elucidation of the Catholic Faith.

Our pulpit is in the traditional location, outside the altar rail and on the Gospel side of the nave.  In this way, what Christ did, and what the Church continues to do, is shown by symbol: the Gospel is to be taken to the people and preached in the midst of them.

Here are some pictures of the pulpit at Our Lady of the Atonement Church.  The shape is called "wineglass" for obvious reasons, and there are many examples of this style throughout Europe dating back several hundred years.