AS YOU ENTER THE SANCTUARY to worship God, do you notice how its architecture has been planned to draw your focus to the centrality of God and His work? Have you considered the symbolism and placement of the altar table, cross, and linen coverings? What do all these elements signify as we approach the Holy of Holies in worship?
These questions and more were considered as Bedok Methodist Church (BMC) recently completed the renovation of its sanctuary, commissioned in June 2010. The renovation cost $350,000 and a Dedication Service will be held soon.
The new sanctuary (right) will have a seating capacity of 800, with provision for live feeds to other rooms accommodating 400 more worshippers. It has been planned to be disabled-friendly, with easy access to the front row of pews for worshippers in wheelchairs, handrails for those walking up and down from the chancel (raised platform), and wide doors that accommodate wheelchair manoeuvring.
The renovations took into account both liturgical requirements of worship, as well as the audio-visual and operational requirements. For example, the chancel is usually more brightly-lit than the nave (general seating area) to draw the eye towards the important liturgical centres in the worship service.
The musicians in BMC are screened from direct sight of the congregation – the instruments and players contribute to the music and feel, but have no role in appearing before the gathering. The chief musician can see and understand the worship leader or choir director, and play the music to serve the congregation.
In churches, the pulpit is used to deliver God’s Word, and any other leading, announcements, etc are done from a separate, smaller stand called a lectern. For BMC, these two stands have been combined into one, and this arrangement is sometimes called an ambo. This is raised a little oﬀ the chancel floor, to give more presence to the preacher.
Choirs are usually seated near, behind, above or with the congregation to let them lead the congregation in song as an oﬀering of praise to God. In BMC, space constraints have forced the choir onto the chancel, forming a “chancel choir” which faces the congregation. Some denominations use this to great eﬀect with responsive singing.
Dr Anthony Goh, Project Manager for the sanctuary renovation project, has written an article titled “ The Sanctuary” to assist BMC worshippers in understanding church liturgy and architecture.