Worship in the round

More than two years ago the architects for the Christchurch Anglican diocese encouraged me to put a series online on church architecture. For some people, these posts may be difficult to find on this site. So this particular post collects many architecture ideas together in such a way that a group of people can more easily use them for discussion, study, planning… You could have a short series of meetings… There are some questions for discussion starters here… but you might have a better way to engage in your own context… These ideas could be the basis of a preaching or teaching series… They could form the basis of a weekly pew sheet page… Or any combination of such ideas…

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What does worship mean to you?
How does a community worshiping together differ from when you worship alone?
What in the environment enhances or detracts from worshiping as a community? What enhances or detracts from worshiping alone?

What is the place of the community in worship? If you have a totally empty space, and you can just start from scratch, how would you arrange people to give the best sense of community? Is there value in flexibility? Are there issues with flexibility?…
[Sketch your ideas on paper; share your ideas with the group; try different arrangements in an empty hall – how do the different arrangements alter your experience…]
Now read the community at worship, and watch the video, and discuss further…

If you have a totally empty space, think of different ways you could use a cross as a focus [large, small, fixed, portable, one cross, lots of crosses,…].
Now read about the cross in the environment and discuss further…

If you have a totally empty space, where would you place an altar table? What could it look like? What size and shape could it be?… [Sketch; share; mock up;…]
Now read about the altar table in the environment and discuss further…

If you have a totally empty space, where could you place the font? What size and shape could it be?…
Now read about the font in the environment and discuss further…

If you have a totally empty space what might be possibilities for a lectern or pulpit? Do we need a pulpit now that we have microphones? How do we honour the scriptures (the Table of God’s Word) akin to holy communion (the Table of God’s Sacrament)?
Now read about the lectern in the environment and discuss further…

Where and how do we seat special leadership, the presider, other clergy, the bishop when present, the choir, other ministries leading in the service…? Why?
Now read about the presider’s chair in the environment and discuss further…

Discuss principles:

  • Work from the inside out. Make a ground-plan of what you want; only then work out how to cover it with a roof. How might this change the shape of churches?
  • Only put into the worship space what will be regularly used. The church building is not a museum. Another room or place can house memorabilia from the past.
  • What other principles can you think of?

Here are the Architectural Design Guidelines developed for the Christchurch Diocese.
What do you like about these? What do you dislike? How do these enhance your plans?
Here are first reflections starting from those Guidelines.
Here are second reflections starting from those Guidelines.
Here are third reflections starting from those Guidelines.
Here are fourth reflections starting from those Guidelines.

The book, Celebrating Eucharist, has principles and ideas for contemporary worship. Especially the first few chapters are relevant for designing, adapting, or renewing a worship space.
What did you find helpful and applicable in your context? What would not work in your context and why?

There is much more about worship, architecture, and environment on this website. You can search “architecture” in the search-box (top right) for example. Or check the tag “architecture“…

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