From the Rector – Column 4

September 26, 2019

Dear friends,

It was wonderful to see how engaged and involved everyone was with our worship experiment on Sunday. We learned a lot! The 8:00 AM worshippers teased me a little about not knowing where to stand since I’m so used to being in the same place each week. Moving the furniture made me more aware of my own prayerfulness and attentiveness in worship, and what I take for granted (like knowing where my chair is…). 

Thank you for all the fabulous comment cards. We got so much helpful feedback from you. Thank you especially for answering the questions that were asked – you all faithfully reported back on what you heard, what you saw, and what you noticed. You also added wonderful explanations and observations and did it with energy and engagement. (I loved all the exclamation points, underlining, and capital letters – you guys are into it!) We received 55 comment cards, which was a great response rate, although we’d love to have even more next week.  

There were more thoughtful individual comments than I can share here, but I can give some of the overall responses. The vast majority of comments were about the choir location, altar location, and sermon location. Interestingly, changing the sermon location wasn’t a deliberate part of the experiment, just a side-effect of not using the chancel. But the feedback was very interesting and helpful. 

The Choir

  • Thirty-eight people thought choir sounded significantly better/louder/clearer from the balcony. Comments included things like majestic, angelic, louder and clearer, amazing, richer sound, and just WOW!
  • Four people did say they thought the choir sounded the same or not as clear.
  • The choir members themselves generally reflected positively on being in the balcony, and several said it was great to be able to see the clergy and preacher face to face for the first time.
  • However, they also said it’s loud to have the speaker directly in their ears and that it’s very hot in the balcony (duly noted!). 
  • Nine people commented they missed being able to see the choir. A very common comment was “the choir sounded much better in the back but I miss seeing them”. 

The Altar

  • As for the altar location, nine people preferred having the altar on the floor, with comments referring to the intimate and special feeling of being closer together.
  • Three people did not like having the altar so close and prefer a more traditional/formal altar placement.
  • Fourteen people – including those who said they liked the closer altar — said having the altar on the floor made it hard to see. A common comment was “I like the intimacy of having the altar closer, but would prefer it raised up a step or two so we can see it better”. 
  • Eight people preferred having the sermon delivered from the floor, or generally closer to the congregation.
  • Three people prefer having the sermon delivered from the pulpit.
  • Six people (including those who liked having the sermon on the floor) said having the preacher on the floor made it harder to see and hear. Again, a common response was “I liked the intimacy of having the sermon from the floor but it was harder to see the preacher”. 

We are going to do this same experiment again this Sunday, September 29 but will tweak a few things:

  • Firstly, it was not our intention to block the gold cross from view – that was just a side effect of shutting off the chancel. We’ll move the gold cross forward so it can be seen. (A LOT of people missed it. Clearly having a cross as a focal point in our worship space is important to our community – no surprise there and my apologies for not planning better for that.) 
  • Second, we will ask the chalice bearers and children to gather to the back and sides of the altar, leaving the front area open so people in the pews can see better.
  • Thirdly, we’ll get a better mic for the preacher and lectors and the sermon will be from the lectern instead of the aisle – just to try out something a little different. Raising the altar on a dais or removing pews to make more space up front are not things we can easily do, so we’ll ask you to bear with us on those points. 

What’s next?

For October 6 and 13, we will be back to normal with the altar and choir in their regular places. Our next worship experiment on October 20 will be downstairs in the Great Hall, so we can especially focus on pew/chair arrangements. What about being in a semi-circle, or having the pews at an angle? That’s part of what we’ll experiment with next. 

Thank you again for entering into these experiments so wholeheartedly and keep the feedback coming! 


One Reply to “From the Rector – Column 4”

  1. Helene Sullas Huggins

    I did like the intimacy of having the altar and preacher on the floor. But as a short person, it was difficult to see. Raising them a “step or 2” sould be very helpful.
    The choir sounded wonderful from the balcony – as long as you are not at the back or under the balcony. Then it is very “muddled.”
    I was at the 8 am service last week and liked worshipping in the smaller more intimate space so much more than when the space is open!

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