Lectern vs Pulpit

Lectern vs Pulpit

The definition of a pulpit on dictionary.com is this:

a platform or raised structure in a church, from which the sermon is delivered or the service is conducted.

Over the years, pulpits (also called lecterns, rostrums and podiums) have changed in both there use and design. For decades, the pulpit was an elevated, grand, sacred, elaborate, hefty structure, used for very specific tasks in a church service or ceremony. 

The word lectern comes from the Latin word "lectus", past participle of legere, meaning "to read", because the lectern's primarily function is as a reading stand. Different denominations used their lectern or pulpit for different purposes. 

However, the modern church has seen a change in how the lectern looks. This is also true for church furniture in general. As access to God, through Jesus Christ has been demystified and encouraged, so too has the lectern become less grand and more retrained. Still a place of great importance and significance, where the sermon is preached from, the lectern is now something that people want to blend in and not stand out. No longer is it seen as a barrier or obstacle, but rather as a useful and minimal object; necessary but unobtrusive. 

In the USA, church pulpits generally appear to be referred to as podiums.

In contrast, in Australia they are generally referred to as church pulpits. In England, they are called lecterns. This is considered the most correct definition. The reason for this is that strictly speaking a church pulpits are an elevated platform with a staircase leading up to it and normally attached to a column in the church building or cathedral. In contrast, a lectern is able to be moved and is at a lower level. A podium is in fact a raised are that the preacher stands on when speaking from the lectern. The church pulpits are used for the sermon (performed by clergy), whereas the lectern was used for reading (often by lay people).

So why is it that the English have the most accurate definition of church pulpits in common language? Is it because the they speak more correctly in general? Not necessarily. It may be because in America, and certainly in Australia, the history of churches does not stretch as far back. It is much more usual to find traditional cathedrals in the UK than in America. In Australia, they are extremely uncommon. There is therefore not the same comparison point available in everyday life. Having rarely or possibly never seen proper church pulpits in a cathedral would mean that for an Australian, the other terms are also interchangeable. Click for a more in depth definition from Wikipedia of church pulpits

Two Arc2's were installed in either side of the St Andrews cathedral in Sydney as shown above. The original church pulpits were obviously kept in place, but the old wooden eagle was put into permanent storage. This was a radical departure for the Head of the Anglican church. Firstly, the use of a lectern without an eagle is unusual in a traditional situation. Secondly, the use of the modern materials like stainless steel and acrylic amongst the traditional stone and wood was a radical departure.
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