Here is Part 2 of 3 the the posts on Baptismal Font Design. Previously we looked at Type, today we look at Location.
One of the main determinations of location is the logistics of getting people to and from the font. Also, since baptism of a person is actually a community event, you need to make sure the congregation can see the ceremony (though you also need to consider what can be seen as the person moves through the water). Portable traditional fonts allow the font to be brought forward when needed and moved to a lesser position when not. Fonts with flowing water must have a fixed location in order to deal with the piping and other technical issues. There are five basic locations we normally see.
Rear of platform
The Baptist tradition of having the immersion font behind the platform of the worship space has a number of advantages. It provides good visibility and does not really get in the way of other events in the space (providing you place the font high enough that people on the platform do not obscure it). The ‘backstage’ space allows for the inclusion of changing rooms and other support spaces, but the need to get up to the font means there will be a number of stairs as well. While it is a traditional look that many groups of people expect, my issues with this location is that it does not allow people to easily interact with the font. Also, if you are not careful in design, the baptism becomes a simple recess in the back wall and not really part of the space.
First Baptist Church, Dripping Springs Texas – Immersion baptism back behind the platform and choir.
Grace Lutheran, Winchester, VA – Font placed in the middle of the center aisle.
Designing a baptismal font as part of the sanctuary/platform is very challenging, because you also have to design for the myriad of other uses of the area. If baptism does not occur that often, one option we have tried is to actually build the baptism in the platform with removable panels. This way the font can become the central focus when needed and disappear when not.
First Church of the Nazarene, New Braunfels, TX – Immersion baptismal font built under platform with removable panels.
A very popular solution is to have the font out in the worship space—often in the center aisle. This way it is very easy to interact with, and the symbolism is very explicit. Sight lines and circulation are also fairly easy to achieve. Do think about weddings and other events that require the use of the center aisle, though. Some groups are comfortable with the concept of the bride have to circulate around the font (once again showing the importance of baptism), but some are not.
Salem Lutheran Church, Houston TX – Baptismal font and pool located in the narthex.
University Catholic Center. Austin, TX – Baptismal font and immersion pool at rear of worship space.
Rear of Worship Space
A similar solution is to put the font at the back wall of the worship space. In this location, you get the interaction and symbolism of having the font in the worship space, but by placing it on the back wall, it interferes less with circulation path.
There are a number of other spaces that can be used. The narthex/entry foyer is a fairly common area, as is creating a chapel or niche off the main worship space. This allows for a smaller, more intimate venue if you have a separate ceremony, but can be difficult for people to see if you have the baptism during a normal service. The standard Mormon stake building actual places their immersion Baptism in a separate room. The advantage here is that the font can be directly linked to the restrooms, which really helps with some of the logistical aspects.
Cypress Creek Christian Church, Houston, TX – This worship space doubles as a secular concert hall. The immersion font was placed upstairs in the performance balcony.
That is it for this week, I hoped you learned something. Next week we will look at code and some technical tips!