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What's in a Church?

What's in a Church? Find out in this quiz!

What's in a Church?

From the tiniest chapel to the grandest cathedral, most churches (and equivalent Christian worship buildings in various denominations) have certain features in common, despite wide differences in scale and style and emphasis. How familiar are you with these?

1.
Nearest to which cardinal compass point is the altar of most Christian churches usually sited?
North
South
East
West
The East is symbolic of the rising sun, with all that that suggests (newness, light, purpose, revelation, fellowship etc).
2.
Consider the following points on the topic of Stained Glass:

Stained-glass windows can add beauty and 'atmosphere' to a place of worship, while the craftsmanship in them offers honour to a creator God;
They offer illustrative reminders of holy people and their stories, in earlier ages when many congregants could not have read these themselves from the printed pages of a Bible;
Being expensive to create and install, many stained-glass windows have been given by (or in memory of) people who had regularly worshipped at the particular church;
A Sunday-school child, when asked for a definition of 'a saint', is once reported to have said, 'A Saint is someone that the Light shines through.'

How many of these statements are broadly true, valid and relevant?
None of them
A few of them (you need not commit yourselves to how many, nor which!)
Most of them (again, you do not have to pick out any one)
All of them
We believe them all to be true and pertinent, even the lovely little latter-day 'parable' in No.4!
3.
As a 1st-century Christian traveller on the Eastern Mediterranean, you arrive at an unfamiliar port and quietly ask someone where you could find the church. What would be the most likely and helpful reply that you might pray for, back then?
'Up the hill towards the theatre, and it's in the ninth street on your left'
'If you mean the Temple, whose temple are you after?'
'From what I hear, they tend to move around. Try asking in the sailmaker's shop, when it's reasonably quiet, if they know when the brothers will next be breaking bread'
'Do you mean that place in the shape of a torturer's cross, that someone's started building alongside the market square?'
'The church' was originally a community of likeminded people, rather than any physical premises where they met. Indeed as a small, misunderstood and persecuted group they preferred not to draw unwanted attention on their gatherings, nor to establish themselves in fixed fashion in the landscape. A certain level of secrecy was necessary for self-preservation ~ in an age when people who had only heard a little, and probably wilfully misunderstood it, would all too readily believe that what we know as a communion service was 'in fact' a midnight cannibal feast.
4.
Which of these features is about the ONLY one you might expect to find in almost ANY Christian place of worship?
A set of bells
An altar / 'Lord's Table'
An organ
Stained-glass windows
None of these other three is universal nor essential, however widespread they may seem to be.
5.
A mediaeval abbey or monastery could usually be expected to include each of the following, EXCEPT ... ?
A scriptorium
A dorter or, more likely, more than one
A belfry
A cloister
There would not necessarily have been a whole peal of bells, though this is certainly possible. Answer 1 refers to the 'copy shop' where the Brothers would have reproduced books in longhand, from dictation, in the days before printing (which itself came along just in time to spread the Reformation and its thoughts and influences); a 'dorter' (pronounced like 'daughter') was a dormitory or sleeping-place for those without individual cells; the cloister was an enclosed walkway, often with a small lawn or garden within it, where people could stroll and pray and contemplate in a calm environment.
6.
Most, though not all, Christian traditions welcome and encourage music and other artistic representation and performance as adjuncts to worship (drama and dance; pictures, carvings, emblems and insignia, glasswork etc). Often these will show living creatures, people and plants: Saints, the glories of the natural world etc.
Which other major world faith FORBIDS both music and figurative art within its places of worship?
Judaism
Islam
Buddhism
Sikhism
This is quite a different approach, but one with a rationale of its own. While Muslims do not have any close equivalent of the cultural glories of 'cathedral music', nor figurative art and sculpture (eg there are no likenesses, even, of their Prophet), they do have a splendid tradition of calligraphy, and the decoration of the vast surfaces of some mosques with abstract geometrical 'arabesques' based on the lettering of the Qur'an.
7.
Which of these is NOT an area you could expect to find on the main floor within a medium / large mainstream church or cathedral?
Vestry
Transept
Sanctuary
Crypt
The crypt, by its name (like 'cryptic') is hidden, usually downstairs; it may be full of graves, tombs and memorials, and/or contain a private or subsidiary chapel or meeting-place.
8.
Which of these statements is most likely to be UNTRUE about a historic church (say, pre-1800)?
There is/was a sounding-board above the pulpit
There are/were no central blocks of pews; the weak may 'go to the wall' to sit or lean, if they cannot continue to stand
There are/were fixed, allocated box-pews for members of the local gentry (e.g. the Lord of the Manor and his family)
A robed choir would sing hymns and anthems in four parts, often accompanied by a pipe organ
The features in Answer 4 only came in at typical parish level in the Victorian period. The sounding-board was to help amplify a (probably long) sermon in the times before loudspeakers.
9.
Which of the following is often used during worship in many branches of the church?
Gold
Incense
Myrrh
Sheep-wool
All fine Biblical substances, but incense (to fragrance the air) has a long and honourable history. On a merely practical level it apparently repels woodworm (useful in churches full of wooden seating and other fitments) although it may trouble people with respiratory allergies (eg hay-fever-prone singers and asthmatic prayer leaders), and when the gum recondenses it can bung-up the delicate wind valves in pipe-organs (like sticky eyes on waking).
10.
Which of the following would you be LEAST likely to find easily if you walked into almost ANY random church, or equivalent?
A lectern or reading-desk with a Bible on it
An altar, probably dressed with a plain white cloth on top and possibly at least one pair of candles
A font or, possibly, a baptistry
Hymnbooks
Not all churches have congregational singing, and increasing numbers of those which do now prefer to project song words onto a screen. These can be updated more easily than fixed (and sometimes grubby) hymnals; this also frees up storage space. And the congregants are likely to sing better if they are looking upwards instead of mumbling down into their chest or lap!

 

Author:  Ian Miles

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