Moveable Font!

People of a certain age will remember the 1970s Wendy's TV commercial, "Where's the beef?"

Upon entering most any liturgical church, seekers will find three major appointments in the sanctuary, nave, worship space or "meeting house," as the church is called in New England, Congregationalist-speak: (1) the alta (a.k.a. holy table), Communion table and "Goddes borde" in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer-speak; (2) the pulpit, from whence God's word is preached; and (3) the baptismal font.

Each of these furnishings is completely functional. The altar is the place where bread and wine are blessed and broken; it is also the place where many other things are blessed, including wedding rings, prayer shawls, Eucharistic visitor kits, keys to a new church and vestments for the newly ordained.

The pulpit is where the holy scripture is interpreted and proclaimed weekly. It is also the place from which scripture is sometimes read, guest preachers and theologians speak, and sermons and eulogies are given during burial offices.

The font is where new Christians are baptized, young and old. In many churches, blessed baptismal water, a.k.a. holy water, is also kept here for baptized Christians to touch and bless themselves, often making the sign of the cross as a tangible reminder of their own baptism.

In addition to functional, these liturgical pieces are also highly symbolic to Christians. The altar of any church is where people have knelt or stood to receive the Eucharist, where youth and adults have been confirmed by the bishop, where brides and grooms have entered into marriage, where caskets containing our beloved deceased, or urns containing the remains of the faithful, have stood.

The pulpit is a visual symbol of the preached word. Many pulpits in Congregational churches in New England stand high on the wall, and many of them have canopies (called "testers" by definition) to denote and adorn them. Colonial Anglican/Episcopal churches on the East Coast also have these high pulpits with canopies, which originally functioned as sounding boards for the preacher before the days of modern sound systems.

The font is the most important symbol of baptism. When we see the font, we are reminded of our own baptisms with water, whether we were sprinkled, poured upon or immersed. Many of us are also reminded of our children or grandchildren being baptized at that very font.

Historically, the font was placed at or near the entrance of any church to symbolically denote entering the Christian faith through the waters of baptism. At Church of the Holy Communion, our font, a modest Georgian Colonial example but nonetheless highly significant, has has "lived" a number of places: The front of the nave, the aisle at the rear of the chapel or in the center of the chancel on baptism Sundays.

And yet, our classic Colonial font is now, for a season, located at the entrance of our nave, proudly standing in the center of the aisle at the back of the church to remind all who pass by it of their own baptisms. It's a perfect place for the font, if you ask me.

I like saints, signs, symbols and liturgical things. In the world of traditional Georgian Colonial architecture, we do not have as many saints depicted in stained glass windows as those who live and practice in the Gothic stone-church world. 

I need a few reminders about the major aspects and occasions of my own faith, and our font at CHC does that for me. How about you?

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 11:46