What can I see in my church?

The Sanctuary

The sanctuary is the part up at the front of church. It is the area of church where the altar is, and where the priest and the other people who are directly involved in celebrating Mass are.

The Sanctuary is also considered a holy place because of the physical presence of God in the Eucharist, both during the Mass and in the church tabernacle the rest of the time. We do not step into this space.

The Tabernacle

A tabernacle is a fixed, locked box, which is a secure place in which to store the Blessed Sacrament. When Fr Gary or Fr Andrew are visiting sick people who can’t come to mass, they collect the Blessed Sacrament from the Tabernacle and take it to them.

The Tabernacle is also a focus point for the prayers of those who visit the church.

The Altar

An altar is a structure, usually a table or flat-topped block. This is where the bread and wine are consecrated in communion services.

The Priests Chair (or Celebrant’s Chair)

The Priests Chair has a special name. It is called a cathedra. A cathedra is the raised seat, or throne.

The chair of the priest / celebrant signifies his office of presiding over the mass and of directing the prayer.

So, the best place for the chair is in a position facing the people at the head of the sanctuary, as in St Saviours church.

Sometimes the design of the church doesn’t allow for this which is why in St Mary’s church the priests chair is on the right side of the sanctuary because the tabernacle is in the centre behind the altar.

A Pulpit – (St Mary’s church only)

A pulpit is a raised stand for preachers in church. The origin of the word ‘Pulpit’ is the Latin pulpitum (platform or staging).

The traditional pulpit is raised well above the surrounding floor for hearing and seeing the preacher more clearly.

It is accessed by steps, with sides coming to about waist height.


A lectern is a stand with a slanted top used to support a Bible.

This is where the people stand when they are reading the passages from the Bible during a church service.

Sometimes the priest will give his ‘Homily’ from the Lectern.

A homily is a speech or sermon given by Fr Gary or Fr Andrew, or a visiting priest after the Gospel reading has been read. The purpose of the homily is to help us better understand the meaning of the reading. To be able to relate (or connect with) what was happening in Jesus’ time to what is happening in our lives, in our time.

An Eagle Lectern (St Marys church only)

This is a lectern in the shape of an eagle on whose outstretched wings the Bible rests.

They are most common in Anglican churches and cathedrals.

The eagle is the symbol used to depict John the Apostle, whose writing is said to witness the light and divinity of Christ most clearly.

Holy Water Stoup

A holy water font or stoup is a receptacle for holding holy water, in the form of a small stone basin. At both St Mary’s and St Saviours they are placed near the entrance into the main body of church.

People about to enter the church will dip their index finger in the water and make the sign of the cross upon themselves.

The Font

In the Christian Church, a baptismal font is the receptacle in which water is held for the baptism, one of the most important rituals in the Christian church.

In medieval times every church contained a font. It was close to the main entrance of the church in an area known as the baptistry. Today, fonts can be found elsewhere in the church.

The word font comes from the Latin word ‘fons’ which means spring.

The font contains the holy water used in Baptism.

War Memorial

War Memorials and Remembrance Sunday

It is not known how many First World War memorials there are, so widespread was the nation’s grief, but there are certainly tens of thousands in Britain.

There is a War Memorial in each of our churches, remembering those from the local area who died in the ‘Great War’ of 1914-1918.

Every community sent people off to fight and work; virtually all suffered the loss of many young men in their community. With over 1.1 million dead, there was a powerful need for monuments, and for those who died to be remembered for the sacrifice they made.

Now that the last veterans of the 1914-1918 conflict have died, it is left to future generations to keep the memories fresh, and to remember not only those from the 1914-1918 war, but the wars and conflicts that have come after that, and the brave men and women who have died so that we can live in peace.

St Saviours War Memorial is in the entrance lobby into church.

St Mary’s War Memorial is on the upper Balcony area in church.

Remembrance Sunday is the second Sunday in November, the Sunday nearest to 11th November.

Various concerts, church services and commemorative events take place across the country on this day to remember the men and women who gave their lives in the two world wars and all who have died in combat since.

There is a church service at both St Mary’s and St Saviours on this day.

Poppies – why do we wear poppies?

The reason poppies are used to remember those who have given their lives in battle is because they are the flowers which grew on the battlefields after World War One ended.

This is described in the famous World War One poem ‘In Flanders Fields’.

Ever since then, they have come to be a symbol of remembering not just those who gave their lives in World War One, but all those who have died on behalf of their country.

The money raised from these donations is used to help servicemen and women who are still alive, whose lives have been changed by wars that they fought in.

The money helps veterans who may need to find new jobs or somewhere to live, or any other support they may need.

It is also used to help those who have lost loved ones because of wars.

Church Memorials (in St Mary’s church only)
Around the walls in St Mary’s Church you will see Memorial Plaques. There are lots of them. It is said that the ‘great and good’ of society enjoyed the privilege of being commemorated within their parish churches. Memorials vary in size from large, elaborate, canopied monuments to modest tablets fixed to the church walls. The monuments do not necessarily mark the place of interment (where someone is buried), which may be some distance away.


An acolyte (is also known as an altar server), they assist in worship by carrying a processional cross, lighting candles, holding the Gospel book, holding candles or “torches”, assisting a deacon or priest set up and clean up at the altar, swinging a Thurible or carrying the incense boat, handing the offering plates to ushers, and many other tasks as requested by the priest.

Processional Cross

A processional cross is a crucifix or cross which is carried in processions. They are often preceded by incense, and usually flanked or followed with candles. The cross is brought up to the altar by an altar server who has been chosen to serve as crucifer. (The term “crucifer” comes from the Latin crux (cross) and ferre (to bear, carry).

This is St Saviours Processional Cross with the Processional Candles


Thurible, also called censer, it is a vessel used for burning of aromatic incense sprinkled on lighted coals. The Thurible consists of a metal bowl (with a base so it can stand) into which the charcoal and incense are placed, and a lid (often topped with a cross), pierced by holes to allow the fragrance from the incense to escape.

Incense boat

An incense boat is the vessel that holds incense before it is put into a censer (Thurible).


In the Roman Rite of the Anglo-Catholic Church, an altar or Sanctus bell is typically a small hand-held bell or set of bells. The primary reason for the use of such bells is to create a joyful noise to the Lord as a way to give thanks for the miracle taking place atop the altar

Water & wine

Sanctuary candle

A sanctuary lamp, chancel lamp, altar lamp, everlasting light, or eternal flame is a light that shines before the altar of sanctuaries in places of worship. It signifies the presence of the Holy Eucharist in the Church.

Votive Candle stand – Christ is the Light of the World

In church we can take time for private prayer, making a prayer for ourselves or for other people, and can if we wish light a candle while we pray, so our prayers are carried to Our Lord in heaven.

Processional candles

As part of our Mass on a Sunday, you will see candles used a lot.

Altar Candles

As part of our Mass on a Sunday, you will see candles used a lot.

Paschal candle

A Paschal candle is a big, white candle used in church. A new Paschal candle is blessed and lit every year at Easter, and is used throughout the Paschal season which is during Easter and then throughout the year on special occasions, such as baptisms and funerals.

The Paschal candle is the largest candle in the worship space.

  1. The cross is always the central symbol, most clearly identifying it as the Paschal candle
  2.  The Greek letters alpha and omega signify that God is the beginning and the end (from the Book of Revelation)
  3. The current year represents God in the present amidst the congregation
  4. Five grains of incense are embedded in the candle (sometimes encased in wax “nails”) during the Easter Vigil to represent the five wounds of Jesus: the three nails that pierced his hands and feet, the spear thrust into his side, and the thorns that crowned his head.

In the medieval Church, Paschal candles often reached a stupendous size. The Paschal candle of Salisbury Cathedral was said to have been 36 feet (11 metres) tall.

Nowadays, most Paschal candles are approximately 36 to 48 inches (90 to 120 centimetres) tall and 4 inches (10 centimetres) in diameter.