St Cuthbert's Lectern, Halsall

Back in the summer, I caught the bus to Ormskirk and walked 2-3 miles along the lanes to reach St Cuthbert’s at Halsall. I had emailed the church in advance and the treasurer kindly agreed to give me a tour ahead of one of his meetings. It is a curious church, and worth the travel. It has some internal, oaken doors which have stood the test of time, as well as some ancient tombs and carvings, which afforded me much pleasure. Unusually, it was a 'modern', Victorian feature that most caught my eye, in the ‘restored’ chancel. Such architectural meddling usually annoys me, but the lectern is most peculiar. This is a reading desk which bears a Bible; from it the reader will say aloud the given text so that the congregants may hear. Anglican churches usually have it in the shape of a brass eagle, but Halsall’s is a weird, carved-stone affair. At first, I thought it was a tomb; but no, it is a lectern, the reader climbing some stairs to ‘enter’ it and there from its inside, read their portion.

I suspect that the architects, Austin & Paley, had too great a budget, but it is certainly a feature worth noting. What a reader feels when entering that little stone tomb I cannot say. Yet there is a sense in which we do ‘die’ when reading the Bible. I do not refer here to the poor denizens of those 53 nations which have banned it, some of whom might well face death, but to the experience of ordinary Bible readers. Its message tells us we are ‘dead in our trespasses’, that we are dying and that one day we shall indeed be dead physically . The Christian is to ‘die to sin’, crucifying the old nature, dying to self and putting to death the misdeeds of the body. It is true that Christ’s are the words of eternal life and that 'those who believe in Him shall never die’, but in another sense, the Bible urges us to embrace death- for the old nature, the old self, the old values. Halsall’s lectern might be more appropriate than I first thought.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him… Romans 6:8