Thursday, September 20, 2007

Altar Calls

For a class assignment, I went last night to a Baptist church to worship and observe how welcome the church is to visitors. At the end of the worship service, there was an altar call. The pastor called it that twice. The strange thing was -- there was no altar in the sanctuary. In fact, I can't remember ever being a Baptist church that had an altar. Which makes the Baptist practice of weekly altar calls a trifle odd. Not that there's anything wrong with inviting people to come forward in prayer. But maybe they should be called something else.

We have weekly altar calls at my church. People can come to the kneeling rail (a.k.a. "communion rail" in front of the chancel, which contains an altar.


UCM said...

You have an altar? Or a Communion Table?

Oh, and technically, the area behind the rail is the sanctuary. The area where the people sit is the nave.

Or don't they teach that at Asbury anymore?!


CBrulee said...

"The Christian altar is the place to celebrate the Eucharist, a sacrifice in the traditional view. In the Western Church the altar is a long, narrow table of stone or wood, often reminiscent of a tomb"

But the article later states, "Most Protestant denominations have no altar; a typical practice is to have a permanent communion table below and in front of the pulpit." (Columbia Free Dictionary)

Other definitions of "altar"

My take is that modern Protestant altars combine the aspects of both an altar and a communion table.

It seems like semantics upon which even the same dictionary doesn't agree. My Dad says, "If a man spells his name 'Jones' but says it's pronounced 'Smith', his name is 'Smith'". One aspect of a standard is that it's widely used. If we calls 'em altars, they be altars, matey!

Keith Taylor said...


You can call a shovel and ice cream freezer if you want to, but at the end of the day, it is still just a shovel.

In my 40 years of life on this earth, have always heard the term at the end of a church service where persons are invited to come forward and recieve Christ as an altar call.

That is what I would call it even it you were having church in the back parking lot of a Home Depot.

truevyne said...

It's all about your point of view. As I grew up, I hitched a ride to church with weekly altar calls beckoning me in song with "Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling 'Oh, sinner, come home." I didn't know any other name for an altar than the front of the church. Twernt Baptist.
Now, I'm well acquainted with the word "altar" as the table to share the family meal of Eucharist or Communion with Christ. Still, to me, the word is flexible- meaning both things.
Guess that means I'm something like Superman. I can see the invisble?

John said...

Sure, but wouldn't a simpler solution be to have an altar at the church from which to serve communion?

UCM -- I think that the UMC perspective is that we have an altar (from the Temple) and a communion table (from the Last Supper) at the same time.