The vision to renew the sanctuary furniture in the Leura Uniting Church embraces the wisdom of our church leaders and brings to each member of our congregation the opportunity to renew their own understanding of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church within which we are defined by our founding document, the Basis of Union.
Churches in the Reformed tradition are generally known as “People of the Book” because the Bible holds a central place in their life and worship. The Basis of Union for the Uniting Church, formed in 1977, states in Paragraph 6 that “The Uniting Church acknowledges that Christ has commanded his church to proclaim the Gospel both in words and in the two visible acts of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.”
Robert Gribben, (Inaugural Professor of Worship and Mission at the Uniting Church Theological Hall in Melbourne, 1998) writes in his book Living Stones – Theological Guide lines for Uniting Church worship buildings: “it matters what we do in church architecture and in the furnishings of our churches. Each element from design to manufacture, from placement to relationship, is capable of being a sacrament of God’s truth, drawing us, through the senses God has given us, closer to the One who has entered creation in Jesus Christ and remade all things. This has not always been the articulated theology of the Protestant churches. At the time of the European Reformation, the balance of word and sign was distorted;”.
Robert Gribben also writes: “The Uniting Church has recovered the balance of Word and sacraments in its worship, and this means, in part, an end of large pulpits and tiny tables.”
In the Reformed tradition, the Word and the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist together represent the wholeness of God’s redemption for humankind. Mind and body, an integrated whole, are joined in both hearing the Word of God and being nourished through the eucharist.
Graham Hughes, Emeritus Professor of Liturgy at the United Theological College, Sydney writes, at the conclusion of his essay on “The Embodied Word: in search of a Reformed sacramentality” “Sacraments – and sacramentality generally – refer us beyond themselves; they are metaphors, at once consisting in and not consisting in that of which they speak. They are pointers to transcendence. A church which disregards them is a church in danger of losing itself.”
Our minister, the Reverend John Bleyerveen has said that the renewal of items of sanctuary furniture would bring the opportunity to focus attention on the centrality of the sacraments in the life of the church.
The vision to renew the sanctuary furniture in the Leura Uniting Church encompasses much more than the mere shuffling of items presently in place, or the modernising of pieces made long ago. As Gwen Wilson, a member of our congregation has observed, it is an opportunity to rethink, reshape and reinspire the vital central actions of our worshipping life.
Louise Mattay February 2014
Introduction to Sr. Jill O’Brien’s Discussion with Leura Uniting Church Sat. 1.6.13
In the preface to “A guide to Uniting in Worship” by the Uniting Church minister, Robert Gribben, he writes:
“Brunner’s much quoted motto, ‘the church exists for mission’ needs to be balanced by the affirmation: ‘the church exists for worship.’ those who hear the gospel, give God glory – and also go and tell others. Worship and evangelism are part of a cycle, and the church is called to do both. Indeed, when worship does not flow into mission, it becomes an ecclesiastical indulgence; and when mission proceeds without being refreshed and redirected in worship, it becomes mere do-goodism. Fundamental to this book is the conviction that the church’s missionary life and the church’s liturgical life are essentially interconnected.”
Someone named Greg. St. John (unknown to me) wrote concerning sanctuary furniture:
“If (this) sanctuary furniture is to witness to the sacraments of many generations, then it must speak symbolically at a deep level, it must be functional and it must be a work of aesthetic beauty that inspires reverence. St. Thomas Aquinas argues that the truly aesthetic object renders three moments: integras or “Wholeness”, consonantia or “harmony” and claritas or “Radiance.”
The expectation of sanctuary furniture is that it be ‘capable of bearing the weight of mystery, awe, reverence and wonder which the liturgical action expresses.’
Since his installation as our minister last year, John is gently guiding us towards making our church and garden more beautiful, more appealing and more accessible to all who set foot on our small corner of the world. Today we are gathered to concentrate on one particular aspect of this process, the renewal of the sanctuary furniture and the reappraisal of the space which surrounds it, in which we come to worship week by week.
Sr. Jill O’Brien, of the Good Samaritan Order has many years of experience in working with church communities in building and renovating worship spaces. We welcome you, Jill, on your first visit to the mountains and look forward to a meaningful association with you.
Let us pray:
Be with us now, as we focus our attention on the symbols which help draw us and hold us closer to you. Open our minds, inspire our thoughts and lift our hearts towards you – so that in this 21st century we may give glory to you more intentionally and serve our neighbours more intentionally. Amen