How do you use your home?

Mr. M and I are talking about moving. Our apartment has space, tolerance for the kits, and a ton of charm, but alas… dreadful, terrible, takes-months substandard maintenance. We’re going in circles on this topic because we’d love to leave the area, but it’s not quite time yet—and it feels like such a waste to make a cross-town move when you’d really like to make an out-of-town move.

At any rate, we looked at a lovely little complex on Wednesday. The leasing office employees were wonderful, the apartment itself was nice, and the neighborhood was incredibly close to work. BUT, the apartment was also a good bit smaller than our current space.

Mr. M and I went to a little deli afterwards, bought an Orangina, and discussed our options. Which pieces of furniture could we pare down? How could we arrange things so that it would all fit? If we could make things fit, would it still be a livable space?

Finally, we got to the real question: how do we use our home? What does the space need to make possible? We LOVE entertaining together—I can’t imagine our home without dinner parties and Cookie Day. And there has to be space for books (because we’re terrible people who judge those who don’t have books in their homes). And what about space for creativity? It would be so frustrating for me not to be able to sew/quilt/embroider, and for Dave not to be able to make sock creatures (or tasty naan)! (I appreciate that it’s a tremendous luxury to be choosy about a home. Our apartment is simple, but it’s more than many, many people have.)

How we use space is a striking question for me right now, because the single biggest thing I’ve been noticing as we visit new churches is the liturgical space. What was this place designed to do? It’s been a fascinating question, and no two spaces have been the same yet. A little sample of what we’ve seen:

  • Quaker meeting: no altar (no sacraments!), very plain benches all facing inward in concentric squares. Nothing on the walls. Plain linoleum floor.
  • A Presbyterian church with no middle pew. Is this because these Presbies stay seated for communion?
  • The same Presbies have the pulpit in the center of the stage, and the altar down at the same level as the pews. Does this reflect the Presbyterian emphasis on the Word?
  • A UCC sanctuary in a congregation known for being part of the Mercersburg movement (emphasis on liturgy and sacrament) whose altar is against the wall. This against-the-wall/away-from-the-wall debate has been HUGE in some Episcopal churches. Who are we addressing at the Eucharist—God or the congregation? Going with against-the-wall is always interesting to me (though not necessarily my preference).
  • A new, emergent UCC that meets in another church’s fellowship hall sits in folding chairs arranged in a circle. It absolutely makes sense that this particular congregation chooses not to set one person as a focal point.
  • Some congregations have one pulpit-- front and center, others have one to the side, still others have two—one for the reading of scripture, the other for preaching. I understand the two when the readings are done by a layperson, but it feels a little awkward when the pastor does both.
  • Sometimes the choir is in front, other times they’re completely hidden from view in a back balcony (loft). How does the direction of the sound affect the way the congregation receives and participates in the music? I don’t know, but I’m curious.

That’s just a tiny taste of what we’ve seen. Maybe you all can share the parts of your worship space that feel significant to you? I’d love to hear about it.


  1. I really enjoyed this, and just wrote a post in response on Search the Sea.

  2. I resonate with the first part... our own living space. We finally bought a house, not to buy more furniture or to have children, but to create. 3 bedrooms, one to sleep and a studio for each of us. The quilt I just blogged about and my stained glass are a result, and my lovely wife would never have become Mosaic Woman. How sad would that have been!

    I also think of Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem, PA. With walls thicker than Popeye's arms.

  3. in a heavily german community, the lutheran church here has an elevated puplit - a wineglass pulpit - patterened after some famous lutheran church in germany. but the elevated pulpit symbolizes a heavy emphasis on the word. i moved the font front and center. the altar... well now it's german too - lots of intricate handcarved woodwork - with a high back and spires... against the wall (if the wall behind it weren't curved).

    anyhoo... i've been thinking about this too since i've been redoing my house... changing the dining room into an art studio, changing the living room to be more of a space for conversation and relaxed bible study than a TV area...

  4. HotCup--
    I'm smiling about your home renovations, because it's been very important to us that the living room be more people-centered than TV-centered. So much so that I thumbtacked a cafe curtain up on the entertainment center over the TV!

  5. I love the way you have considered how you use space, the reflections on church spaces is also fascinating. Thanks for this :-)


"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins