I Think We Need A New Pulpit

24 Mar

Ishmael, our Moby Dick narrator, travels to a chapel in New Bedford while killing time waiting for his ship to Nantucket.   I enjoyed the description of the pulpit at the church, which was described as “very lofty,” but instead of having a ladder to ascend, Father Mapple climbed a rope ladder, drawing it up behind him, leaving him “impregnable in his little Quebec.”   Ishmael ponders the reason for this isolation of the pastor.  Could it symbolize spiritual withdrawal from the world?   Perhaps it is a “self-containing stronghold – a lofty Ehrenbreitstein…”   (An ancient fortress in Germany, in case you were wondering – thanks Wiki.)

Apparently, the rope ladder was not the only unusual feature of this pulpit.  The whole thing was designed to look like a ship, from the carvings on either side, to the scroll work on the “prow” of the thing.  Ishmael (and, after some contemplation, even I) enjoyed the analogy as the pulpit being

…ever the earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in it’s rear; the pulpit leads the world.  From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt.  From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds.  Yes, the world’s a ship on it’s passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is it’s prow.

What an unusual idea!   Or maybe not so unusual… check out these real pulpits.  Let’s start our tour here:

I especially like the cross jutting out across the congregation.

Or, how about this one:

Much more ornate!   Check out the gold accents.  Nice.  This is a pulpit with “bling.”

Maybe this would suit your congregation:

I actually think this might be an organ, not a pulpit.  What say, you, Christina?   Guess we’d need a balcony first.

Another lovely ship:

The blue sail contrasts so nicely with the gold filigree.  And is that a rope ladder peeking from the side?
This could be Ahab at the prow of his ship, or Father Mapple exhorting his congregation – take your pick:

Suffice it to say, this pulpit/ship analogy has apparently struck others in the church designing business.  Perhaps they all read Moby Dick as well!   I may have to bring this to the attention of our pastors.  For more detail, read chapter VIII in the book.


Posted by on March 24, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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12 responses to “I Think We Need A New Pulpit

  1. Christine

    March 24, 2012 at 7:03 am

    I had no idea: real churches with real ship-pulpits. wow.

  2. Adriana @ Classical Quest

    March 24, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Cool post Jeanette! I was enthralled with Father Mapple’s sermon – all the the nautical references he made — even referring to the congregation as “shipmates”. What a coincidence that he preached on Jonah. I wonder if he preached on Jonah every week? Good sermon though.

    “The pulpit is the prow.” So true.

    Thank you for all the ship-pulpit pictures!

    • Christina Joy

      March 24, 2012 at 11:13 am

      He probably alternates text with that and Jesus walking on water.

      • Christine

        March 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm


      • Christina Joy

        March 24, 2012 at 12:27 pm

        Compared to the Two-Week Lectionary, the One-Year seems to go on forever.

    • Adriana @ Classical Quest

      March 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      Jeannette, I need to apologize for misspelling your name again! Most people spell my name:”Adrianna” which I’ve always privately considered to be a lack of attention to a rather important detail…

      I’m humbled.

  3. Christina Joy

    March 24, 2012 at 11:20 am

    There is also that beautiful typology of the Church being the Ark that we enter through the flood of Holy Baptism. There was a church in Texas that I was told was designed to remind “shipmates” of being inside with Noah and the gang. It was pretty subtle, though, and since I had never been inside a boat I didn’t totally see it myself.

    Also. I’d set sail in that organ any day.

    • Christine

      March 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      We’d need to sing “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” every week.

      • Christina Joy

        March 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm

        Now I’m the one chuckling.

  4. Jeannette

    March 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    I thought the same thing about preaching on Jonah every week, Adriana. However, there are probably several water-related texts he could use. Maybe it would be a 6 week cycle. 🙂 No problem with the name spelling – people have spelled it wrong ever since I can remember. And I was “blessed” with a last name growing up that was even more of a bear to spell or pronounce. It has ceased to bother me.

    This was a fun post to write. Thanks for the help with pictures, Christina. I don’t think that the same beautiful analogies apply to the church organist as to the pastor in the pulpit, however. Sadly.

    • Christine

      March 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      Noah. Naaman. Crossing the Red Sea. Jesus stilling the storm. The disciples and the miraculous catch of fish.

  5. Jeannette

    March 25, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Our pastor thinks that you could stretch that sermon series on water stories to at least 3 months. He added the Samaritan woman at the well, Moses getting water from a rock, the water from Jesus’ side, and another one I can’t seem to remember now. Thanks, Pastor F.!


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