Christianity: Sacred Spaces and Places

Christians worship in churches. It is customary to worship on Sunday, the Sabbath, and on other special festivals and celebrations. Some people, especially monks and nuns, attend church daily. In addition, most Christians pray or worship at home through individual or family devotions.

Church services are most often led by an ordained priest or minister. Often there is also lay (non-ordained minister) leadership in a service. The services usually include participatory prayers and hymns, readings, and a sermon. For most Christians the primary service is the Holy Eucharist, also known as the Holy Communion or the Mass. The center of this service is the sharing of bread and wine, representing Christ's body and blood, which he sacrificed for God's people on earth. The model for the Holy Eucharist is the Last Supper, Jesus' last meal with his disciples. At this meal, Jesus instructed his disciples to share bread and wine together as a way of remembering him.

What do Christian churches look like?

Since Christians were often persecuted in the early days of Christianity, the first churches were simply people's homes, or any other safe gathering place, often indicated by the secret sign of a fish. Just as there are many forms of Christianity, there are many forms of churches today. However, they usually share some features in common. These features tend to date back to churches of the Middle Ages. Churches from this point on tended to be built in the shape of a cross.

Common features include:

  • Bell tower
  • Nave or seating area
  • Altar where the gospel book and the bread and wine for the Eucharist are placed
  • Pulpit for sermons
  • Lectern holding a Bible for the readings
  • Choir loft or seating for the choir
  • Stained glass windows
  • Candles, incense burners
  • A precious cross over or on the altar Baptismal font for baptisms (holds the water)   

Churches are generally built with the best the particular community has to offer as a way of showing respect and praising God. Churches are supposed to be inspirations for worship.