By Joe LaGuardia
Did you know that the pulpit in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Vero Beach is not the original pulpit? That pulpit is in storage. When I first came to First Baptist, the “powers that be” gave me a choice between three pulpits: the one in the sanctuary, the original one, and the one my predecessor used in the contemporary service, a plexiglass podium-style pulpit.
I got a good look at the original pulpit, and I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the thing. Built in 1962, it is three-times as wide as the current one, and a bit higher. I joke that I can’t see over it; and, if I were to use it, I’d feel like I was lording over the congregation. It is regal, however, and communicates the majesty of our church’s legacy and the architecture.
The plexiglass pulpit is in our Family Life Center, and we use it for Bible studies and other events. It communicates a teaching-style of preaching. That would not work for me (in the sanctuary, that is), and it is too informal for my own preaching style.
The one they had in the sanctuary–the one we currently use–is just right! It is heavy enough to communicate the weight of the authority of scripture and of our preaching heritage, but it is light enough to move off the stage when we have special events. It matches the rest of the sanctuary, and I can easily move around it when I preach and want to “connect” with the congregation. It is an easy pulpit to stand in and to stand beside. I can see over it, too. That helps.
The Old-Fashioned Hymn Sing we hosted at church last Sunday reminded me, however, that with all of the pulpits and preachers that pass through churches over the years, it is liturgy–the worship of the people and the hymnody–that sustains churches over the years. Preaching styles and pulpits come and go, but the Word of the Lord grounds us, worship unites us, and the Lord strengthens and provides for us.
Singing the hymns last Sunday allowed this feeling of continuity to rise in my heart. For all that makes us unique and diverse, it is our worship that makes us one Body in Christ. And for that I am grateful, and for that I can celebrate and know that this God whom we serve has lifted us up and has carried us “through the ages” (Isaiah 63:9).
We don’t sing to be nostalgic, we sing to bring glory and honor to God’s name. We don’t sing because it makes us feel good (though that happens!), but to declare the mighty works of the Lord and to praise Jesus for being our Lord and Savior.