Features of a Church

I am going to be describing St. John Lloyd Roman Catholic Church. It is located in Trowbridge, Cardiff. The priest in St. John Lloyd is called Father Alan Davies Hale. The building itself is shaped like a shell. It has good parking space, some space on the church's “own land” with even more on the main street. Also, there are two entrances into the actual church. Both lead to the foyer.

But, before I start my writing about the features of and in the church, I will explain the sign of the cross, since it is used a lot in the catholic church alone in relation to the features. It is the sign used by Catholics (and many other Christians) to show that they follow Jesus. We make the sign of the cross by “imitating” the cross shape. We start at the forehead and then move to our chest and from there, our left should and finally to our right shoulder.

In the foyer, as you walk in, there is a holy water font on your left. It's a small bowl (called a stoup) filled with the holy water that juts out of the wall. We bless ourselves with the water by, after dipping our fingers into the water, making the sign of the cross. It's important to Catholics and helps them us pray because it reminds us that holy water is a sign of new life as there can be no life without water to nourish us. It reminds us of their baptism and the gift of new life they have received. New life one of the main themes of Baptism, so it also reminds us of that. It can also be used to show we are being purified from the powers of the Devil.

On the right of the main entrance is the shelf where all the Hymn and Mass books are kept, along with our weekly newsletter and, if available, a newspaper or catholic magazine. The books help us in the Mass by helping us focus on the Mass and why we are celebrating it in the

first place, it also helps us join in. The newsletters/papers and magazines help us by keeping us focused and interested throughout the week, since we are able to keep them. When at home, it gives us time to reflect on the Mass.

In St. John Lloyd, we have four rows of benches with a small section on the front left side (Whenever I reference a direction, I'm assuming you know that the altar is my point of reference, so the left is to the left of the altar and the back of church is the foyer, the further you get to the altar then the closer you get to the front of the church). This small section is where the choir and musicians sit, along with the more disabled or elderly parishioners sit so they have less space to journey at Holy Communion (that's if the priest doesn't come to them).

In our church, we have instruments that are used when we sing the hymns. The musician most relied is the organist. Although I believe that a piano is used, I have been told, by a reliable source, that it can be switched between a piano and organ setting. In my church, the organ setting is used. The organ is used to lead and accompany the singing. during the Mass, it helps keep both the other musicians and the parishioners who sing, together and in tune. It is sometimes referred to as the “king of instruments”.

Next to the musicians' corner (as I'll now refer to it as), is the confessional. It is the place in church that we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also know as the Sacrament of Penance or the Sacrament of Confession. In my church, this is enclosed so that the privacy of the person going to confession is protected and sound proofed so that they cannot be heard. This is to preserve the complete confidentiality of person going to confess.

However, when you do make your way to your chosen bench, before you go to sit down, many

people genuflect. Genuflecting is when someone goes down on one knee (as if you were proposing or being knighted) and make the sign of the cross. The reason for genuflecting is to show our respect and reverence to Jesus in the tabernacle, which I'll come to later.

The main focal point is the altar, located in the sanctuary. In my church, the sanctuary is at the front of the church and it is where the priest and altar servers preside during the Mass. In my church, it is raised (by about 5 inches) above an already raised (again, by about 5 inches) floor. On the wall above the sanctuary (where the shell shape of the church starts becoming important), there is a giant crucifix with Jesus on. Everyone can see this and it reminds us of how Jesus died for us.

The altar is placed high enough, while being about waist height on myself, so that the parishioners can see the priest throughout the Mass. It's on the altar that the bread and wine are offered by the priest and then become the body and blood of the risen Jesus and for this reason, it is treated with the special respect and covered with a white cloth. Although there are normally two candles on the altar, in my church, they are placed on stands on either side of the altar, with two more being in front of the altar, one on each end. During Mass, there are two cloths made of white linen. One of which is a large cloth which covers the top of the altar (like a table cloth) and a smaller cloth (called a corporal) in the middle, which is where the bread and wine are placed, ready for Holy Communion.

On the altar is the chair that the priest sits on. In my church, it stands out from any other furniture in

the church since it's the only seat which is just like any normal chair, except for, of course, the fact that it's made out of wood and bigger than normal sized chairs. The chair reminds us of the priest's responsibility to preach the Gospel and look after Jesus' flock (us). This authority is given to him by the bishop.

Behind the sanctuary is where the tabernacle is kept, in a small section of the church. The tabernacle is a small metallic box, golden in colour. The tabernacle is a very secure safe which contains the consecrated hosts (The Blessed Sacrament). This host is Jesus, our Lord. We come to church so we can pray before Jesus and, when there are parishioners who are housebound or otherwise incapable of coming to the Mass, the host is taken to them by a eucharistic minister.

In my church, on the first raised platform of the sanctuary area is the paschal candle. It is very tall and it reminds us that Jesus rose from the dead and that he's the light of the world. A new paschal candle is blessed each year during the Easter vigil. It is lit from Easter Sunday until Ascension Thursday. It is a symbol of the new, risen life of Christ.
On the paschal candle there is a design which includes a summary of the Christian faith. 1) The cross 2) The alpha and omega - the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. these remind us that Christ is the first and the last, he existed before any of us and will be here at the end of the world. 3) The year - reminding us that this year, as with all others, is the year of the Lord, we live in God's time.

The paschal candle is lit for funerals, baptisms, weddings, confirmations and the major celebrations throughout the year.

Facing the musicians' corner (in the opposite corner) is where the paschal candle and votive candles are. It is used for baptisms in which we are reborn into God's family and our original sin is washed away. We also receive the gift of faith as we share in the life and love of Jesus.

In my church, the votive candles are, as the tradition says, located in front of a statue. My church has a statue of the Virgin Mary with her arms outstretched. The votive candles themselves are small candles that, when lit, symbolize the rising of our prayers to God. They are themselves little signs of our love to God. They are usually lit when someone wants to pray or ask for something special from God or if we want to ask Our Lady to help us. We also light them to thank God for his love to us. When I first asked about them, my Nan told me that people use them when they want to pray for the dead, in particular, someone close to them, but not always someone recently deceased. There is a small collection box next to the candles and it is respectful, but not necessarily compulsory, to leave a small donation.

A lectern (from the Latin “lectus” which means "to read") is a reading desk with a slanted top, affixed to the sanctuary floor, on which the Bible is placed for reading the readings and Gospel. To help the parishioners see the reader and improve posture when facing an audience, lecterns have adjustable height and slant. In my church, the lectern is located in the corner of the sanctuary that is closer to the musician' corner and faces the parishioners. Our church's lectern was made by a member of our congregation and the side facing the parishioners has four square images, each one representing the four different Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

It's from the lectern that the two readings, the responsorial psalm and the Gospel is read, along with the homily, which is a sermon spoken by the priest, almost always about the Gospel reading, but, in my church, my priest sometimes reads any letters from Archbishop Peter at this time. The lectern is given a special place because the word of God is so special to us.

Spread throughout the church are the stations of the cross. The stations are about 14 inches in height and about 10 inches in width. They are small wooden plaque-like pictures, fixed to the walls of the church. Each one shows an image of the journey Jesus made when he was sentenced to death on the cross at Easter. People stop and then think and pray at each station. At each station, we pause for a few minutes as we reflect on what Jesus suffered for us. We then say the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to the Father prayers. It was first invented so that those who could not enter the Holy Land (Jerusalem), could make their own journey by following these images around the church.

On the right wall of my church (when facing the altar), are a few stained glass windows. These are usually either stories from the Bible or the life of Jesus and the saints. They help make the church look more beautiful.

In my church, the sanctuary lamp is located in the same place as the tabernacle and is there to remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World and that he really is there with us. The lamp is also a sign of honour and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. All catholic churches have a lamp which constantly burns in front of the tabernacle.

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