The Place For Preaching: Part 4 – Exterior Pulpit

by Fr. John A. Peck

Part Four of a Five Part series

A Short History of the Liturgical Location for Preaching: The Ambo, the Pulpit and the Lectern.

The Exterior Pulpit

There is a wonderful history of outdoor, or exterior pulpits, attached to Churches. As stated previously, exterior pulpits were used for funeral orations in the churchyard, for the preaching of pilgrimages, or for the exhibition of relics, and were often built outside of the churches, and many cathedrals.

As you will see, there is a great variety in the design and placement of exterior pulpits, adding to their flexibility of use, ornamentation, and installation.

Examples in the United States

The Exterior Pulpit in Starkenberg, MO

There are even examples of exterior pulpits right here in the United States. One excellent and humble example exists at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Shrine, in Starkenberg, Missouri, of the Diocese of Jefferson City. The shrine is located in rural Montgomery County, about 87 highway miles west of downtown Saint Louis, Missouri and is a beautiful example of just such a pulpit.

Others include the following (there are more than what I have included here);

Exterior Pulpit at Idlewild Presbyterian Church, Memphis, TN

The Exterior Pulpit over the front entrance doors of the  Shadyside Cathedral in Pittsburgh, PA

The Exterior Pulpit at Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL

From Around the World

There are a multitude of exterior pulpits around the world, and particularly in Europe, where preaching has always held a high priority.

Exterior Pulpit by Donatello

Exterior Pulpit at St. Martin’s Church in Birmingham, England

Exterior Pulpit on Brixton Rd in London, England

The Exterior Pulpit at St. George Church, Brentwood, Essex, England

Note the similarity in design of the above exterior pulpit to the classic ambo!

The Exterior Pulpit of St. John Capistrano, Germany

This is a particularly ornate exterior pulpit (above), from which St. John Capistrano preached against the Turkish invasion.

An Exterior Pulpit attached to an unidentified Cathedral

A 16th century Exterior Pulpit

The Exterior Pulpit at Duomo Perugia

An exterior pulpit in Hämeenlinna, Finland

Why exterior pulpits?

Now, you may be saying to yourself

“Okay. So what? None of these are Orthodox Churches, so why should I care?”

Truth is, many Orthodox parishes do not just have fellowship halls, but rather have extensive facilities. As more and more is being scheduled at these facilities, and more programs (and, yes, festivals) take place at them, it is a far better opportunity for a preaching festival than having an “Orthodoxy” tent, which ends up being little more than a kind of Ripley’s Believe It or Not for non-members.

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Why not bring in several accomplished preachers to give 10 minute sermons, along with seminarians who need to smooth the rough edges from their sermon presentations?

The addition of exterior pulpits to many of the existing churches would provide excellent and unique opportunities for parishes to memorably hear the preaching of deacons, seminary students, and of course, local clergy that the congregation almost never gets to hear (because they are busy at their own parishes).

It would allow festival visitors to hear Orthodox doctrine and theology is an non-threatening setting (i.e., easy to escape), sharpen the homiletic skills of our preachers, and sharpen the listening skills of our flock. There is no down side to the installation of exterior pulpits, and they would provide excellent reminders of the Churches mission to

“preach the Gospel to the whole Creation” (Mark 16:15).

Exterior pulpits comprise a laudable tradition which would make sense in modern Orthodox parishes. They demonstrated in the planning, building and funding of these pulpits that preaching the Gospel of Christ was a priority. Again, in the Orthodox Tradition, the preaching of the Word is the culmination of the entire first half of the Divine Liturgy. It is time for the pulpit to take its place, once again, in Orthodox Church planning, furnishing and architectural planning. The exterior pulpit would practically require more and better preaching from clergy, and may even spawn a new generation of active evangelism and hard-core apologetics among the laity.

Nothing is worse than an idle pulpit.

And there’s no hiding one that is visible on the outside the Church.

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Compiled from various sources

Part Five – The Lectern & Analogion can be read HERE.

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