I enjoyed visiting St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Newtown (Sydney) on Saturday for a wedding. The church was constructed in the 1870s by Edmond Blacket. You would probably be more familiar with his “other” designs – The University of Sydney and St. Andrews Cathedral.
While waiting for the wedding to start I took some notes on what I saw around me in the building:
The church seating reminded me of the family box pews found in Europe and America. I remembered the story of Charles Simeon – a minister who faced significant opposition from his congregation in the form of locking the pews to stop people from worshipping. At the base of the box pews were foldable prayer benches with no padding at all. I could not imagine kneeling on these benches (have we grown soft?).
There was a series of stain glass windows in the gothic arches and Scripture engraved in the sandstone including Psalm 122:1 – “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.” I noticed the huge granite baptistery (not quite like our fiberglass tubs) and beautiful choir loft set at the back of the chamber.
It wasn’t until after the wedding that I noticed the most famous feature of St. Stephen’s – the glorious spire attached to the church.
Here’s my question – does church architecture enhance worship? Are there design elements that hinder worship? Any thoughts or comments would be welcome.