Design Charrette for the Lord’s Supper

Last Saturday architects, engineers, and designers of various stripes from our church gathered together to participate in a charrette.  For most architects this is common parlance for any collaborative session in which a group of designers work intensively on creating a solution to a problem.  (The term originated with french architectural students in the 19th century).  The goal is to create a useable product in a limited amount of time with available resources.

In this instance it was a gathering to both brainstorm and design a solution to the rustic folding table we have been using for the Lord’s Supper for the past couple of years. Our church is currently involved in a worship renewal grant program with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship focused on teaching and renewing our practice of the Lord’s Supper.

We met first thing on Saturday morning and after fueling up with some great food and coffee I laid out a brief overview of biblical and historical concerns that would feed into the day.

There are an overwhelming number of viewpoints in which to consider the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  So we decided to focus on the common names and the biblical themes which those envision (drawn in part from The Worship Sourcebook)

  • Lordʼs Supper” conveys that Jesus himself is host of the supper and that we celebrate this feast in obedience to Christ. The Lordʼs Supper is a ʻnewʼ covenant rooted in remembering the OT story of redemption. (The LS is an active community event reflecting God’s pursuing actions in Christ)
  • Communion” highlights the intimate union we experience with both Christ and fellow believers. [Unity and Fellowship, horizontal and vertical elements]
  • Eucharist” (based on the Greek word for “thanksgiving”) names this feast as a meal of gratitude.  As we reflect on the gracious gift we receive in Christ we are led in turn to think of those who need our gifts. (ethical dimension of the supper)
  • Marriage Feast of the Lamb” The Lordʼs Supper is an eschatological event. It points both into the past through ʻanamnesisʼ and into the future through promise.  (In the Feast of the Lamb we are both fed, and we work to feed the future faithful)

The Lord’s Supper has expressed itself in various architectural manifestations throughout history. We took a tour of a brief cross-section.

  • The roman lounging table .
    How it is believed Jesus took the last supper.
  • The Medieval Alter. (the mass)
    – The ‘high alter’ and communion rails (the people separated from the meal.  Movement from meal to sacrifice)             – Davinciʼs ‘Last Supper’ another example of an inaccurate, if not iconic, visual portrayal.
  • Scottish Long Table

    The Scottish long table.
    The meal returned to the people.  A large thin table is built in the central aisle where the church literally sits together and eats the bread and wine.

  • The puritan ʻfamilyʼ table.
    Home as a little church. How most of us visually recognize the Lord’s Supper today. The Table, more or less, resembles the size, height, shape of the dining table.

Issues of the symbolic table:

– People don’t sit at this table. (Should be made higher so easier to see from congregation?)

– People aren’t fed at this table literally. (Doesn’t need to have a large top)

– Large number of people approaching all at once. (more like a buffett? Wedding imagery possible here?)

– How much burden to express direct biblical imagery? (Cross, Nails, Trinitarian, vertical vs. horizontal,

– Visual is front of table, not top. (Unusual focus for typical table)

From 9am-noon we had four groups of three begin the brainstorm process.  They wrote down themes, explored their own understandings of the Lord’s Supper, suggested shapes and structures that were evocative and tried to let their imaginations run wild.

Then after lunch everyone gathered back together to get a bird’s eye view of the mornings work.  Each team took turns talking about their thoughts/initial designs.  One architect took notes of similar themes and repeated design elements.

From here a smaller team will fashion the final design.  Then we will hand off that design to our engineer/builders who will construct the table. We’re very excited that a father of one of our college students is a blacksmith.  Here is a pic of him welding our legs.

Our fiber artists will then create a number of pieces to attach to the front of the table for each church season.  The table will hopefully be finished during the summer.

char·rette
[shuh-ret] noun
– a final, intensive effort to finish a project, especially an architectural design project, before a deadline.  from the old french meaning ‘cart.’

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