Setting Thesarus Entry: Church


Wooden pews, arranged into rows, a shelf on the back of each pew holding a bible and song book, an altar, pulpit, crucifixes, crosses, rosaries, decorative banners with key scenes depicted from the bible or symbols of a specific religion, flowers, clean, polished surfaces, high windows, stained glass windows, statues of important religious figures (Virgin Mary, Buddha, Christ--whatever applies) Jesus depicted on the cross with a crown of thorns, one to four aisles separating pews into sections, atrium, Baptistery (holy water), lectern with a bible on it, candles, piano, arches, mouldings, large thick wooden doors, sound system, microphone, choir, offering basket/plate, blessed wine in a goblet, blessed wafers, communion table, white tablecloths, padded bar for kneeling at pew, shrines, incense, burning candles, priest, altar boys, chalice, pamphlets, religious books, statues, rectory, confessional, donation box, church notice board, basement with a kitchen, tables and folding chairs for functions and church meals,priest/pastor


Preaching, whispering, coughing, babies crying, children squirming against the benches, feet shuffling, hymns, piano or other instruments, choirs singing, prayer, crying, heavy breathing, silence, talking, muttering, sighs, the whisper of fabric as parishioners shift in their seats, feedback from the mike


Incense, cologne, perfume, hairspray, soap, burning candles, wood polish, cleaners, cough drops/gum/mints, clean linen


watered down wine, tasteless wafers, gum, mints, cough drops


a wafer dissolving on the tongue, a child tugging on a sleeve as the whisper questions about when everything will be over, the hard benches numbing your buttocks, shifting, crossing and recrossing legs, kneeler board digging into knees, bumping & brushing against other people, shaking hands with those around you, making the sign of the cross, feeling constrained by tight collars, ill-fitting shoes, hot jackets or restrictive clothing, flexing toes inside your shoe, placing a fist against the mouth to cover a yawn, crossing and uncrossing arms, taking the hand of a loved one and squeezing it, standing then sitting, shifting foot to foot while standing, placing a hand on the top of the pew for balance, offering an arm to an older parishioner, rubbing at eyes, moving neck side to side to relieved strained muscles or promote wakefulness, tapping a foot during hymns or when music is played, paging through the bible or song book, taking bills out from a pocket to add to the collection plate, passing the collection plate

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

Nyda sat ramrod straight in the pew, her gloved hands in her lap, her gaze leveled at the polished wooden crucifix on the wall. Father Oakley's words washed over her from his pulpit as he spoke of the glory of God and how Nyda's husband was now in a better place. The glory of God. Where was God when that drunk driver got behind the wheel?

Example 2:

Holding my bouquet tightly, I stepped up to the oiled wooden doors and peered through the crack. My breath caught at the beautiful job my sisters had done with the church. At the end of each pew a deep red bow adorned a cluster of white calla lilies, which not only matched my wedding colors but somehow drew the eye up to the stained glass windows above, as if they had been fitted into the church just for this day. Stunning candelabras stood to each side of the altar, their silver stems gleaming and the candles' honey scent reaching all the way here to the anteroom. I bounced on my toes, spotting Adam, who stood at the front with his best man. As the white-robed priest swept his hand toward the back of the church I stepped back and slid my arm through my father's. It was time.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

Like a personal blessing from God, sunlight streamed through the stained glass window, dappling the parishioners below in red and gold.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Jimmy wiggled on the bench and then gave his collar a tug. This was probably the most boring day of his life. His clothes itched, his shoes squished his toes and the man up front just talked and talked. Mom called him a priest, whatever that was. Jimmy looked at the man's black dress and white collar and wondered why he was wearing his penguin costume when it wasn't even Halloween.

Please note: Each type of faith will have an individual church setting.

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Angela said...

As a non church goer, this list may be woefully incomplete. If anyone has more sensory detail to beef up the entries that would apply to a majority of churches, please let me know and I'll add it to the entry.

Alice said...

I think you did well, Thanks!

Alice said...

I think you did well. Thank You!! Of course I am a non church goer too.

Mary Witzl said...

For me, church has so much to do with smell. We were Protestants and went three times a week when I was a child. My main memories are the smells of cheap wooden pews (no fancy wooden decorations in our rustic church!) and toiletries. The smell of fabric, newly washed or dry-cleaned; the smell of powder on elderly skin, of hair that had been freshly permed, Brill-creamed into stiff waves, or sprayed. The smell of men's carefully polished shoes, of skin scrubbed with soap and splashed with aftershave. And the smell of tiny babies, of sweat, of hymn books and the Bible. And finally, the smell of dozens of people all sitting together on a hot day, listening to hellfire sermons for hours on end. The smell of fear.

Angela said...

Thanks, Alice!

Mary, I appreciate you adding in those orors. I agree smell is a big part of church. Love the shoe polish one--I'd forgotten that one!


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