The worship area houses the primary purpose of the building; it dominates the building in all respects. It is clear from the appointments that this space is meant for worship, and that worship is the most important activity that takes place here. Liturgy is the central reason for this building.
Entering the worship space, the first appointment encountered is the baptismal font. Placing it at the entrance of the worship space is a reminder to all that it is through Baptism that we have a right to be here to celebrate. Through Baptism we come to Eucharist. This placement also eliminates the need for Holy Water fonts at each entrance, which are a practical way of making baptismal water available to everyone entering a church. All entering simply use the baptismal font itself.
Certain features of the baptismal font are worth noting:
- Size: The baptismal font is large enough to facilitate the church's preference that all baptisms (infant or adult) be done by immersion (not submersion) rather than by pouring. Baptism means to be immersed in the death of Jesus in order to rise to new life.
- Flowing Water: The water in the font is a constant flow of water, just enough to keep the surface of the water rippled. Biblically, in a land where most water was drawn from stagnant wells, living or flowing water was a sheer delight. As a sign of baptism, living or flowing water is a better symbol of baptism and its meaning than still or stagnant water.
- Thermostatic Control: The baptismal font is equipped with a system to heat the water when a baptism is to be celebrated.
Eucharist is a celebration of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This area is the focal point of the space without being removed or isolated from the rest of the space. It is given just enough prominence to allow visibility by all present but without putting distance between this space and the rest of the room. Christians gather around the table of the Lord; they are not spectators at the Lord's table.
The area is uncluttered by extraneous appointments; there is simply the Lord's table (the altar), the lectern or ambo, and the presider's chair. These are the focus of the liturgy. Noteworthy features of the altar area include:
Placement of the Altar and Lectern
The asymmetrical placement of the altar and lectern arrangement expresses the two elements of the Eucharistic celebration: Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. While the altar retains a slightly greater prominence, the lectern or ambo is given a bit more prominence than usual. There is a balance between these two parts of the liturgy, with Eucharist having a somewhat greater place.
The square design best expresses the theology that all are gathered around the table. There is no front or back no head or foot of the table. All places are of equal importance. (A round altar can also express the concept.)
While certainly not a throne, the chair's central position serves to remind us that the community does gather around someone who presides at the celebration. The presider is central to both the celebration of the liturgy of the Word as well as the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
There is a ramp behind the altar area giving the handicapped access for either participation in celebrations or in a ministerial role. The lectern also has been designed so that a person in a wheelchair can serve as Reader.
One of the challenges in designing a space in keeping with a contemporary understanding of liturgical celebrations is seating people so that they do not see themselves as spectators but as active participants in the liturgy. They are as much a part of the action of the liturgy as the presider or the reader or the choir. They are to interact with each other as well as with the presider and the reader. Their role in the liturgy is of equal importance with the roles of anyone else taking part in the action of the liturgy. We are not in a theater to watch. We are with each other and at the table of the Lord, and our seating arrangement is designed to help establish this feeling.
A wall hanging adorns the front wall above and beyond the altar. It appears as if a number of Saints are standing, visiting, observing, participating in our activities from a balcony vantage point. The selection of the Saints depicted was done by the Parish. The actual applique of the Saints onto the hanging was done by members of the Parish.
An important general feature of the worship space is that everything in it is portable or moveable except for the baptismal font. This allows us to gather in this room in a variety of ways, and, on occasion, to use the space for other liturgical functions as well as concerts, plays, etc. The options to rearrange the room can help to facilitate special liturgies. It might be one way to mark the change in various liturgical seasons. Furthermore, we are a pilgrim people. A pilgrim people is a people that is on the move, not fixed and permanently settled. We should not forget that.
The absence of kneelers is another notable feature, related to the fact that this space is meant for public worship, not private, personal devotion. According to the rules of the liturgy of Vatican II, standing or sitting are the two preferred postures, rather than kneeling, although kneeling is not outlawed. Kneeling is a posture suited to private, personal prayer; kneeling tends to close out people around us. This should never occur in liturgy.
For similar reasons, our worship space also has no statues, no votive lights, and no stations. This space gives prominence and focus only to those elements involved in the public celebration of the church's liturgy and draws all of our attention to the sacramental life of the church. It invites us insistently to develop a liturgical spirituality. A liturgical spirituality is one which gives primary emphasis to the sacramental life of the church. Even private devotion takes its inspiration from and leads back to the celebration of the liturgy.
The ambry, the wall-mounted cabinet, is located on the rear west wall of the worship space. With its clear glass doors and sides, the three Holy Oils are quite visible. These are the Oils used by the church in its celebration of a number of the sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders. They are also used in the consecration of a church and/or altar.
Blessed by the bishop only once a year during Holy Week, we are reminded not only of the role the sacraments play in the life of any parish, but also of our bond with the whole church. We are not a community unto ourselves, but tied to the whole church. Thus, the Oils are given a place of dignity and reverence.