Thursday, 24 September 2009

Pulpit or no pulpit?

I have just returned from our District Local Preachers meeting and the district chair posed an interesting question towards the end of the meeting in respect of the use of pulpits.
He told the meeting that in a number of churches he had been to recently and used the pulpit for the sermon people has said to him it was the first time the pulpit had been used for ages.
Now before anyone stones me I have to admit it was not a thing I had really thought about and from what other were saying there has been and still is in some places that if the person leading worship did so from the lectern or other place in the church they would then move to the pulpit where a church has both.
Our chair asked us to see what people thought/did so over to you readers - what is your experience?


Will said...

None of the four ministers in my circuit preach from a pulpit. This is nearly a constant issue in my largest church. I refuse to preach from the pulpit (a boxed in monstrosity where I tower over the congregation). I would say the majority of the congregation would prefer that I do preach from it if asked, but a 'majority of that majority' would rather I preached from where I felt it best to do so. Many of them understand that I do not wish to tower above them, but would rather be closer to the congregation.

There is a very vocal minority that says I should be in that pulpit and I get the normal hints when I am there about it. For instance, at a local preachers meeting one of the preachers from this church spoke about a minister on trial, 'I wanted to put in that [Name] preached from the pulpit, where preachers are supposed to preach!' The reasons I hear are normally surround those who can't hear and need to see me (but refuse to pass by the 5 or so empty rows to be closer to the front), but I have an idea that it's more to do with a perceived notion of how things should be.

Incidentally, one little lady who sits at the back and couldn't hear a garbage truck crash into her living room once said, 'I love it that you don't preach from that pulpit because you are one of us when you stand down there.' I love that story.

Steven Jones said...

The whole pulpit vs. lecturn "thing" in South African Methodist churches depends largely on the various contexts.

For instance, in a predominantly black church, only ministers and Local Preachers on full plan may preach from the pulpit (and, in fact, are required to do so), while the "lesser mortals" are required to use the lectern.

In white congregations they are a lot less stressed, although in the traditional English "hymn sandwich" services the preacher usually uses the pulpit. This however has as much to do with voice projection as with tradition - I have found that when I preach from the pulpit, the sound carries a lot better. (May also have something to do with my good "old school" preaching training where we are taught to project, and not to rely on technology to make ourselves heard).

In churches where the worship style is more contemporary, many have done away with pulpits altogether, with a lectern serving only as a place to put one's notes on. The more gifted preachers (I'm not included here!) dispense with notes completely, which enables them to walk around, almost conversation-style, as they preach.

Interesting discussion, this. Allow me to throw another log on the fire - how many churches have done away with Communion rails? The one church I serve at the moment has none, and Communion is received standing. Thoughts, anyone?

Fat Prophet said...

Thanks guys for giving me an international response to this question. I found the South African variation particularly interesting.
There were some comments last night about the geography of the church making a difference and we had one member of the meeting who was adamant we should always preach from the pulpit where there was one. Not sure I agree with him but then he is twenty years older than I am.
I will if it's ok with you guys feed this information back to my district chair.

Bob the Black Country Brummie said...

To me FP I don't think it matters. What's more important is what is said and done.

Fat Prophet said...

I tend to agree with you Bob. It was a subject I had not really thought about until it was raised the other evening at the meeting. If I am taking a service at a church I have not been to before I will ask them what preachers normally do. Personally I think some pulpits I have seen could give you vertigo.