LITURGY WE LIVE - PARTS OF THE CHURCH - DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY
Liturgy We Live - Parts of the Church
We enter our church through the narthex (Greek for “small case”). Historically, it was a porch occupied by unbaptized catechumens. The congregation sits in the nave, derived from the Greek word “navis” for ship (albeit upside-down in its “sailing” posture). The nave is separated in some churches from the chancel (particularly in Orthodox churches) by a screen. Naves in the Middle Ages lacked pews and were used for dancing, eating, and plays. The chancel (Latin for “lattice” associated with the chancel rail) is the raised area containing the altar. In many Anglican churches, the chancel also contains the lectern, pulpit, credence table (the small table for wine and bread), and sedilia (seats for ministers), and the choir. In our church, a hexagonal chancel rail separates the nave from the chancel. In English churches, the nave’s upkeep was the congregation’s responsibility, but the chancel’s repair was the lay rector’s responsibility. His family was allowed a special pew there. “Sanctuary” has a double meaning since historically it was a safe haven for criminals, implying that the church was above the world’s powers. In the Old Testament, it was a haven for one who killed without intent.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City
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