|Into the Chancel|
Christians sometimes observed proclamation, the Lord’s Supper and
baptism in completely separate sections of their house churches.
And so, it is not too surprising distinct locations came to be used
in churches. By medieval
times, worship roles for clergy and laity differed so much as to give rise
to sharp architectural distinctions and even barriers between the two.
Worshipers observed priests celebrate the Mass, through a
lattice-work screen. The Latin
for lattice, cancellus, led to the clergy side of the screen being called the
chancel. The screen, when it
supported a cross, was known as a rood screen.
Reformation tenet of a priesthood of all believers expressed itself in a
rejection of this architectural division in Protestant churches until the
second quarter of the 19th century.
A Church of England movement to return to more ancient worship
advocated a clearly articulated separation of nave and chancel.
This practice was adopted in North America among “
expressions of the divided chancel are seen in Calvary Episcopal Church
and Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Designed
by the eminent Gothicist, Ralph Adams Cram,
at Shadyside, the laity, in the form of elders and deacons, enter the
chancel to receive the elements from the table for service to the
congregation in the nave. (Recent
practice at the church also has the Lord’s Supper received by intinction
during weekly vespers.) Here,
the chancel/nave division is less pronounced, in the form of a slight
elevation and a low stone chancel “rail.”
both churches, the pulpit and lectern are actually located in the nave,
though in both places the pulpit is entered from the chancel side.
In the Presbyterian Church, baptism is expressly a corporate act of
the congregation, so the font is found at the front of the nave, rather
than in a chapel.
congregation uses a slightly different form of procession at the beginning
of worship. Some churches are
uncomfortable with what they see as excessive ceremony in a procession.
However, it can actually be seen as affirming that the leadership
of worship comes from within the congregation.
The pastors, choir and elders do not mysteriously materialize in
the chancel from places unknown.