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A marked and original feature of the church is the chancel. “Chancel” is an unusual term to employ in describing a Congregational house of worship. It has a ritualistic sound, but no other word accurately represents the unique arrangement of the space devoted to the conduct of worship in this church. As the observer faces the chancel he notices that it is threefold in its design, and completely fills the space between the minister's room on the left and the organ-loft on the right. The pulpit platform is on the left adjoining the minister's room and connecting with it. The pulpit is placed upon the corner nearest the central aisle. On the right a platform of corresponding area is devoted to the use of the choir, and is arranged for thirty singers. It is worthy of mention that the singers are not screened off from the congregation as if they were placed on occasional exhibition, but they are here regarded as fellow-worshipers with the great congregation. Between the pulpit platform and the choir, and upon a lower platform fronting the central aisle, and near to its outer edge, is a movable lectern or reading-desk, and immediately behind it is the communion-table. A massive baptismal font exquisitely wrought in stone is placed midway between pulpit and reading-desk. At the rear of the chancel, and filling the space between the minister's room and the organ-loft, there rises a screen of quartered oak, simple in design but impressive in its architectural effect. Against the screen there is ranged upon the platform a series of ten clerical stalls, suggestive of ecclesiastical dignity.
The construction of the chancel, no doubt, was chiefly practical in its purpose, for greater convenience in the conduct of worship. But an observer may be granted the privilege of investing it with a symbolic value. Each part of the arrangement has its peculiar distinction. The pulpit, for teaching. The low-placed lectern, for prayer and the reading of the Word. The Bible is thus restored to its appropriate place near the people as the Book of the people. The minister, engaged in reading or in prayer, is one of the people; the suggested sentiment is, Let us worship. The choir, as an integral part of the scheme, is fittingly placed adjacent to the pulpit and lectern for the service of sacred song. The different parts of the service are thus clothed with their own religious significance and dignity. Does all this suggest ritualism? But why refuse to be influenced by the usages of ritualistic churches if they are intrinsically good and are susceptible of adaptation to the simplicity of congregational worship? Are we never to add to our own power by the aid of others? “It would have been ridiculous in Bonifacio to refuse to employ Titian's way of laying on color if he felt it the best, because he had not himself discovered it.”
In the arrangement and construction of the pews there is another indication of the intention to adhere to the idea of a church. There is not the faintest suggestion of a theatre. The floor is level, and the line of the pews runs parallel with the straight end-walls of the church. The amphitheatral model of arrangement may have some advantages ; nevertheless, the raised seats of a Greek theatre do not harmonize with the associations of a Christian church. The sittings in this church, with a very few exceptions, are of equal value for seeing and hearing. A simple but very useful device in the construction of the pews must not be overlooked. Each seat is divided into two sections ; some seats are equally divided ; some are made for the accommodation of three persons, some for four, others for five. A simple arm-support divides the sec
tions, and is made easily adjustable to the varying wants of those who hire the sittings.
The personal comfort of the worshipers is provided for in many thoughtful ways. To recur to the pews: the auditor finds himself agreeably disposed upon softly cushioned seats made of sufficient width, and of such a height and slant of back as to afford a natural and adequate support. The pews are separated at a distance to allow easy passage-way, and yet not so far apart as to interfere with comfort in supporting the head when bowed in prayer. The space between pews is free from one aisle to the other; and aisles and pews all open into each other so as to permit unobstructed passage.
There is one feature worthy of especial commendation, — the regard paid to the reciprocal relations of speaker and hearer. The pulpit is so placed that the preacher, instead of confronting the long blank space of the central aisle, directly faces a solid body of listeners in the rank of pews in front of him; and yet the central aisle is so related to the chancel that it completely serves its important function on ceremonial occasions. The pulpit platform is also well arranged as to height. The preacher is not placed so high as to produce the sense of distance from his hearers and of speaking down at them, nor is it so low that the farthest auditors have difficulty in seeing the speaker. Every public speaker sensitive to the outward conditions of public address will congratulate the speakers from this pulpit on the abiding presence of these favorable conditions for securing animation in the preacher and attention and sympathy from the congregation.
The location of the choir is still an unsettled question in planning a church ; but the strong tendency is to gratify a natural instinct for placing the choir where it can be seen as well as heard. When a chorus of singers faces the audience, as is the case in this church, the congregation feels more sensibly the influence of the harmony, and is better guided in its singing than when the choir is placed out of sight. Attention and sympathy in the service of praise are stimulated by the reciprocal visual relations of singers and congregation. The special comfort and convenience of the singers have been consulted by arranging a well lighted and conveniently furnished corridor between the ornamental screen back of the choir and the western wall of the church. The singers can pass in and out without annoyance to themselves or to the congregation. This corridor also connects indirectly with the cosy and amply furnished pastor's room at the left of the chancel. The necessary but unæsthetic activity of the organist is ingeniously concealed from view by a semi-circular screen of oak, which contributes an architectural feature to the church, and also gives the organist an easy and effective command of his
The acoustic properties of a large auditorium are more frequently a fortuitous result than the consequence of scientific calculation. The acoustics of this church seem to be perfect. We hazard one or two reasons.for the successful result. First, and chiefly, the broken surfaces of the walls, and the peculiarly curved configuration of the vaulted ceiling. The whitewood material of the ceiling furnishes another favorable condition for the reflection of sound. Still another cause is the reduction of absorbents of sound-waves in the absence of carpeting under the pews, the carpeting being confined to the aisles. The fine proportioning of the height of the room to its length and breadth must also be taken into account. The acoustics of the building were subjected to a severe test at the dedicatory service, when every listener in a congregation of twentyfive hundred, filling church, chapel, and Sunday-school room, heard the various speakers with distinctness. The external conditions of easy hearing are generally the conditions of easy speaking, and speakers with ordinary vocal power experience no difficulty in harmonizing their voices with the voice of the auditorium.
The comfort and health arising from good ventilation have been provided for in a somewhat peculiar manner. There is no elaborate system, but a large open fireplace in the southern wall, located near the entrance, makes an efficient air-conductor; this device is supplemented by easily commanded air-flues, conveniently placed in the walls and roof. The ventilation of the important rooms in the chapel-building is secured by an open fireplace in each room. The quality of the air in the colder seasons of the year is healthfully and agreeably influenced by the indirect radiation of steam heat; by this method a great volume of warmed fresh air is constantly introduced.
The essential conditions of health and comfort are consulted in the provision of an adequate supply of light, even in dull and unpleasant weather. In the north wall, near the organ, is placed a group of three large windows filled with amber-colored cathedral glass, bordered with a narrow stripe of figured green, which launch a shower of light into the central area without the blinding effect of the direct rays of the sun. Opposite to these windows are three large openings in the southern wall connecting with the Sunday-school room, filled with clear, leaded glass; and below them, underneath the balcony, is an arcade of six arched openings, between the chapel and the church, which are filled with cathedral glass in gilt-leaded sash. The main gallery is lighted from a noble rosewindow through which the eastern light streams in profusion; and in the opposite end, high up above the chancel, the western light comes through a group of five beautiful windows. The artificial light is supplied by gas in elegantly designed brass chandeliers and other fixtures in graceful forms. Nearly all the gas-jets in the auditorium are lighted by electricity.
The chapel-building, to which we now give attention, is two stories in height. On the first floor is the chapel itself, with a seating capacity for two hundred and fifty persons. Grouped around it, and connecting with it by convenient doorways, corridors, and vestibules, are the library on the east, and the missionary-room, parlor, and kitchen on the south. The chapel is also entered from the church by two indirectly connecting corridor entrances. The chapel is abundantly lighted by a group of five cathedral-glass windows that nearly fill the west end of the room, and from the six-arched arcade windows in the partition between church and chapel. The room is furnished with substantial folding-chairs. The leading feature of artistic design is the open fireplace with the pressed brick chimney-breast reaching to the ceiling, and bearing the inscription : "( ye Fire and Heat, bless ye the Lord; praise him and magnify him forever.”
On important social occasions the chapel is used for the principal room, and is approached froin the porch in the southern front and the main corridor. On the right of the corridor are the missionary-room and the library, which, at such times, are used for the accommodation of gentlemen; and on the left of the corridor are the cloak-room and parlor for the convenience of the ladies. With the aid of these serviceable rooms the