Friday, October 26, 2007

old north church

I officiated at a memorial service this afternoon. The service was held on the grounds of the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn Cemetery in a chapel designed as a replica of the Old North Church in Boston. I've been to the original Old North Church and just confirmed my memory with some pictures from their web site and the replication is exact. The same architecture, of course, and steeple, but even the same chandeliers, the same organ pipes, and the same box pews.

Several folks at the memorial service remarked on the box pews. I explained that they were a way to keep the congregation warm during New England winters. Each family would have their own box, and they'd bring warming stoves into their box and then close the doors to hold in the heat. completely unnecessary in Southern California in a modern heated building. I've never preached in a church with box pews before. At my church now we sit in folding chairs set up and taken down every morning.

It's interesting how the physical space supports or subverts the sacred space. With everyone sitting behind their box walls my view of the congregation was of a sea of heads, cut off from their bodies, and separated from me and each other. The picture was a great illustration of the cliche of New England Protestantism, but not conducive to the message I tried to convey during the service, or the theology I preach.

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