Letter: Redesigned churches

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The Independent Online
Sir: Every generation has made changes inside church buildings. If Colin Wheeler (article, 13 November; letters, 15 November) looks at the interior, rather than the 500-year-old exterior walls of his parish church, he will see evidence of this.

Pews were generally introduced in the 17th century, no doubt to cries of "You're cluttering up the lovely space, pandering to softies who can't stand up for a couple of hours." A hundred years ago the massive Georgian pulpit was pushed to one side and a rood screen and reredos erected (or, if you were lucky, the medieval one restored).

These changes reflect changes in theology of worship and our understanding of the ecclesia - the Christian community meeting in worship. Today there is a preference for seats in a semi-circle round a nave altar; rather than worshipping a God out there, we feel it better to worship a God in the midst of us.

Incidentally, it is easier to worship God or appreciate the architectural merits of a building if you're not bursting for a pee. Two members of the congregation at the church where I worship find it necessary to visit the loo half-way through the service (because of medical conditions). I am glad there are toilet facilities, because it is more important that they can be with us Sunday by Sunday than that Mr Wheeler's aesthetic sensibilities might be offended.

I am neither one of the old ladies nor the T-shirted trendies to whom Mr Wheeler disparagingly refers, but an ordinary member of a congregation who prefers a living centre of worship and evangelism to a museum for dead art.

Alan D Skyes

Halifax, West Yorkshire