At All Saints, the altar is at the center of our worship life. Services are led from the altar, and we gather there as a community to join in the Eucharist. Over the next few liturgical seasons, we will be experimenting with where we place the altar and how we receive Communion, with the hope of identifying an altar platform configuration and Communion procedure that best serves our parish’s needs at this time.
Why are we doing this?
Our current arrangement–the nave altar platform–has been part of our worship life for more than fifty years. In 1969, in an effort to live more fully into an understanding of our Eucharistic theology as a community gathered around the altar table, the Rev. Louis Pitt led parishioners in a series of experiments to determine the optimal configuration for a central altar located closer to the people than the traditional high altar. The church tried various options over several seasons, and based on congregational feedback ultimately established the nave altar on a platform in the style we currently use.
In 2012, thanks to generous funding from the Brookline Symphony Orchestra, we invested in a platform that could be broken down, removed, and then reassembled, allowing for greater flexibility in the nave space. The current platform disassembles into ten pieces (eight platform sections and two altar rails). But the actual process of disassembling requires at least three people, and the wear and tear of frequent disassembling and reassembling the platform has taken its toll. It is nearing the end of its usable life.
Could we simply repair or replace the existing platform?
Yes, but the pandemic has opened our eyes to other potential uses for the space and reminded us of the value of challenging the idea that we should continue to do something simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Instead, we believe it is important to ask questions: Would more concerts be possible with a differently configured altar area? Would other groups be able to use the space in new ways? Would we? Would people with mobility issues be more at ease standing when receiving Communion? Would everyone? Is a platform necessary for good sightlines? How do various configurations improve or detract from people’s worship experiences? Under Richard’s guidance, a team of Vestry members, with input from other ministry leaders, will be conducting a series of experiments with platform configurations over the next several seasons. With each configuration we will ask for feedback from you so that we can make the best decision that retains the beauty and flow of our space and opens up more flexibility and possibilities for its use.
When will this happen?
Our first experiment will take place between 13 November and 18 December, during which we will use no platform, only a rug, with the altar placed roughly where it currently stands. From 13 November to 27 November, we will practice receiving Communion standing and at stations. From 4 December to 18 December, we will resume gathering around the altar and offer the choice of receiving either standing or kneeling at a prie-dieu. As always, ushers and altar ministers will help to direct you.
We welcome your thoughts as we work through these different approaches. You can send feedback by filling out this google form, which will be available each week in the Parish Notes. There will also be clipboards near the Langdon and Beacon Street entrances, as well as in the Guild Room where you can note your feedback.
Thank you again for your faithfulness and flexibility.
Rob Blanton, the Rev. Richard Burden, Matt Burfeind, Maggie Hogan, Honor McClellan, Jack McLellan, Julia Speyer.