There is a lot to consider when you oversee your house of worship’s furniture. It can feel overwhelming, from ensuring you have all the essential elements to deciding which other furniture items you want. Additionally, some terms refer to similar furniture pieces, so it’s hard to know which one is right for your worship space.
This glossary of terms will help you differentiate between common furniture terms in Christian, Catholic, and Lutheran churches. Need help determining which ones are right for your church? Find a rep today for further assistance!
In Christian rituals, the ambo is a raised stand from which the Gospel or the Epistles are read and was first used in early basilicas. Initially, this piece of furniture took the form of a lectern.
Aumbry or Ambry
An aumbry is a secure box or cupboard in the side wall of the sacristy or sanctuary. It’s usually a storage space for anointing oil, reliquaries, books, and sacred vessels. The box may also be used to keep the Blessed Sacrament.
The platform on which religious leaders present the sacrifices, offerings, and other religious purposes. There are the high, central, and side altars, and they symbolize the presence of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church altar is a place for the major sacrifice for the celebration of the Eucharist.
Also known as an altar crucifix, the altar cross is placed on the rear altar and a crucifix is typically hung on the sanctuary wall behind the altar as its main ornament and dates to the fifth century. The structure is a Christian emblem used by various denominations, Bible Student movements, and scientists.
Altar Rails or Communion Rails
The rails are modern barriers confining the chancel (altar area) reserved for the clergy and altar attendants. In the Trinity Church, altar rails are low to allow congregants to kneel when receiving Holy Communion. You will find altar rails in either metal or wood.
A baptismal font is a piece of Christian church furniture used for baptism, a ritual in Christian worship. It’s a receptacle in which baptism water is held.
It’s the raised throne of a bishop found in a cathedral. It may also be called the bishop’s throne or seat. The chair is in the altar area (chancel).
A small table or shelf, usually located near the altar to hold vessels and elements used in the Eucharist, is the credence table. The components used in the ceremony include bread, water and wine cruets, paten and chalice, and offering basins or plates. Many parishes cover the structure in white cloth.
Holy Water Fonts/Stoup
A stoup is a vessel containing holy water, which is typically placed at the church entrance. It’s often positioned at the crucifix’s or religious representation’s base.
A kneeling posture piece of furniture for resting during Christian prayer is a kneeler. It’s placed at the pew’s bottom. The piece of furniture is tilted down to allow easy kneeling and up to let you get in and out of the pew.
The lectern is a piece of furniture that serves as a reading desk in the church where the clergy places the Bible and other reading materials during a church service. It has a slanted top and holds the materials at an appropriate height for the speaker or reader.
Initially, a pew referred to wooden seats in an enclosed and raised area in the church set aside and designed for an ecclesiastical officer or dignitary. Later, the area was extended to include special seating for distinguished laity in the church body. Finally, the place was extended to include the entire church seating. Surprisingly, in most Eastern Orthodox churches, the congregation still stands.
A piece of furniture comprising a desk for placing prayer and worship books and a platform to kneel when praying is a prayer desk/prie-dieu. You can have this structure in your private house, bedroom, or oratory.
The door by which the preist enters the chancel from the side. The main church door is symbolic. It signifies Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and a gate to Heavenly Jerusalem after salvation.
The enclosed and elevated platform in the church from which the preacher delivers the sermon during a service. The pulpit stands squarely at the center of many Evangelical Christian churches and is usually the most significant part of the church furniture. That symbolizes the central position of the Word of God in the weekly worship service.
It refers to an ornamental screen or partition not directly attached to the altar table but fixed to the wall behind it. The structure may be wood, stone, jeweled metalwork, or drapery. They may contain statues of apostles and saints, scenes from the lives of the martyrs, biblical scenes, panels engraved with the Ten Commandments and Lord’s Prayer, or other Christian symbols.
The furniture is the raised ledge or shelf behind the altar stones. It’s a platform where one might place flower vases, church candles, and altar crosses. Also, the term may refer to the frame behind and above the altars for decorated panels, sculptures, and paintings.
A cross pitched at the entry to the chancel of a church. It symbolizes the cross on which Jesus Christ died and has the figures of the Virgin Mary on one side and St. John on the other. Rood screens survive in some Anglican (Episcopalian) and Lutheran churches.
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