Concise Lexicon of Christianity

Ken Collins’ Website

Teachings, worship, rites, sermons, and terminology

Interior of a Church Building—Lecture-Hall Floor Plan

diagram of floor plan, described fully in text

  1. Choir.
  2. Ambo, often incorrectly called a pulpit.
  3. Communion table.
  4. Railing, often called the altar, with provisions for kneeling.
  5. Congregation.

The entire room is called the sanctuary. During the service, worship leaders, lay and clergy, are seated between the choir and the ambo, facing the congregation. The ministers and choir members face the congregation at all times.

This floor plan is used by most religious groups that originated within the United States during the nineteenth century. It originated with Puritans and Quakers in England, back when they were required by law to attend the Church of England. They conducted their own supplementary meetings after church in lecture halls. After the requirement for attending the Church of England ended, the lecture-hall layout persisted.

The role of the congregation is largely that of audience, which makes the service seem simple to visitors. The service emphasizes musical performances and the sermon; it includes prayers, but there are generally few scripture readings, except as a prologue to the sermon. At times, the congregation is called upon for congregational singing, and for individual prayers and testimonies. The congregation often responds to the sermon or the service by coming forward to the railing for individual prayer.

The congregation generally stands to sing and sits to pray or listen. Exceptions: The person who leads in prayer generally stands, and respondents at the railing kneel in prayer.