Church of England (Anglican) and other church buildings
In England, because it is the officially recognised national church the Church of England, Anglican churches can be found in every single parish in the country. Roman Catholic churches are fewer in number in the UK, but these also have traditional parish boundaries. Free churches do not have designated ‘boundaries’ in this sense, but are ‘gathered churches’, being built and established wherever there is need.
Many Anglican churches are shaped as a cross from an aerial perspective, with high spires and arches which reach up to heaven. Since the altar is symbolic of the death of Jesus, and the table for the central act of worship is found at the front of the church, so therefore the pews must face in that direction. Also, because praying on one’s knees is important as a sign of respect, pews will have kneelers to make this more convenient.
The traditional plan for an Anglican church is the nave for the congregation, the chancel where the choir sits and the priest officiates, and the sanctuary, which contains the altar. Within the church are numerous artefacts and symbols that aid worship, devotions and ritual practices. The font, the altar, the crucifix or cross, candles, stained glass windows, pulpit and lectern, all have symbolic and practical uses.
A Chapel is a place of worship in the Christian tradition of non-conformist groups such as the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, and the Baptist Church. The word Chapel is also used for individual units within larger Anglican and Catholic churches. Most non-conformist chapels are less ornate but may have similar features and artefacts to a parish church; however, they often place much more emphasis on the pulpit and the preaching of God’s Word. Today many churches meet in re-purposed buildings such as old cinemas and schools, or attempt to bring church to new groups, such as on beaches or town centre cafes. As noted, church is not about the building, but about the people and the work they do.
Because churches and chapels are ‘sacred space’, their main function is for offering prayer and worship to God; however, they are often also used for other purposes, including musical and public events, venues for voting, youth group events, children’s playgroups, etc.
A Cathedral is the central church of a diocese and is the ‘Seat’ of the bishop. There are 42 dioceses in England, each having a cathedral in the main town or city of that diocese. Each diocese is then subdivided into parishes, each providing locally what the cathedral represents regionally.