On the State of Our Pulpit

(This article by Steve Kadar, Chair of the Sunday Services Committee, first appeared in the January 2013 issue of The Flame.)

I am writing about a problem that may not obvious to many of us, but is right in front of all of us every time we gather on a Sunday morning.  It is something we take for granted that has been around since before most of us were here, yet time and wear are showing its age and we are drawing near for a change.

I am talking about the state of our pulpit, the physical pulpit in the Sanctuary.

the front of the pulpit

The pulpit as most of us see it — photograph by Steve Kadar.

So far as we knew, the actual pulpit was built — by deceased former member Rick Scarfe, we have since been told — when the original Sanctuary was built in 1980, as is evident by the use of the same T-111 wood siding that is on the front of the building and also surrounds the pulpit on three sides.  The back of the pulpit is open, with one shelf for storage, while the actual top has space to hold things — a lot of things — and not unlike a closet tends to get filled with clutter.  Atop that main area are two additions, one a lectern nicely stained in a contrasting color to the pulpit’s wood while the other is a frame holding the lectern and covered in blue tape!  The latter came from who knows where while the other came from deceased charter member Dr. David Dick when he was active.  These additions try to elevate the area holding the preachers’ notes, etc. because the top of the pulpit is too low for most people to comfortably use.

rear of the pulpit

The rear of the pulpit, once it has been cleared of a lot of accumulated clutter — photography by Steve Kadar.

The problem is the pulpit is literally falling apart.  Pieces of it are coming off, which is not safe especially when the pulpit is to be moved — and that is no easy task!  It is physically very large for its location on the moveable riser above the floor of the Sanctuary.  For a number of our services the pulpit is moved off the riser because the space is otherwise needed for musicians, multiple speakers and other presentations that may not have been considered when the congregation moved to its current location.  No matter the why or the how, though, something needs to be done to prevent injury and to offer something more functional for our current needs.  (In addition,  the microphone, even on the “goose-neck”, is too far away from most speakers’ mouths and the microphone cord is out in the open, which isn’t very attractive and is also a potential trip and tangle hazard, particularly during Children’s Focus.)

One of our members has recently done some carpentry “triage” to keep the physical pulpit stable — and basically keep it upright — but this is a short-term fix.  Several options exist in terms of what to do about these problems that the UUFP can entertain.  We can, for example, build (or have built) a new and somewhat smaller pulpit that would be functional and stable and attractive.  Or we could buy a new and somewhat smaller pulpit.  There may be other options that none of us have even thought about at this point.  This is no small issue and we don’t want anything that would not be accepted or appreciated by the congregation!

The Sunday Service Committee has been receiving input on this issue and has scheduled a townhall meeting to take place after services on April 21st.  Any and all options and suggestions will be entertained as we seek a way to solve the problem.

Until then you can be thinking, looking at what we have now, seeing what works when we don’t use the regular pulpit at a service, and asking yourself what also we could have that would work for us in our sacred space.

About acmillard

Andrew serves as minister to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula in Newport News, Virginia.
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