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Religion Library: Protestantism

Symbolism

Written by: Ted Vial

Protestant churches that follow the liturgical seasons accent the sanctuary with colors associated with each season. The communion table and pulpit will often be dressed in violet for Advent, Lent, and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week. White is used for Christmas Eve and Christmastide, Epiphany, Maundy Thursday, Eastertide, and Trinity Sunday. Red is used for Good Friday and Pentecost. Green is used for the Sundays after Pentecost.

Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal churches also tend to be fairly austere, for several reasons. All have their origins in revival movements, which tended to attract less established and wealthy classes of society. They were well suited to rural and frontier churches in North America. They thus tended to have plain worship spaces for economic as well as theological reasons. While the demography and economic status have changed, the tradition held.

Protestant churches are often decorated with images or patterns. Often these images depict the Trinity, employing such forms as three circles or trefoils. The Holy Spirit is often depicted by a dove.  It is also common in Protestant churches to see stylized depictions of a book, symbolizing scripture and representing the centrality of the Bible.  In other words, the symbols of Protestant churches are used to highlight the promises of the Gospel, usually offered in oral or written form.


Study Questions:
1.     How did scripture serve as a symbol within the Protestant tradition?
2.     What symbols are most meaningful to Protestant denominations? Why?
3.     Why is the cross used most often within the Protestant Church architecture?

 

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