Walking past the local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, I noticed a portable oak lectern sitting next to the dumpster, which was overflowing with broken parts of old dressers. “Wow!  Should I ask them if I could have it?” I thought to myself, flooded with memories of class presentations from similar wooden stands.

But then I realized that I probably would never use it.  The only time that I read from a lectern any more is when I am preaching a sermon.  Most of my seminars and workshops include visual aids, music, activities, case studies and games.

In some ways the lectern is a symbol of the classical learning model of knowledge being something that we transfer mechanically and only in one direction, like a pitcher of  water filling the vessels that are our brains.  But we now understand–from American Pragmatist John Dewey–that learning is a process that is best done relationally and interactively.  More recently, education experts such as Howard Gardner have encouraged us to engage with a range of intelligences and learning styles.  Our Tapestry of Faith curricula reflects this understanding.   As Unitarian Universalists, we aspire to a wholeness of our humanity, paying attention to our bodies and our creative expressions as well as to our acquisition of facts.

But there is still resistance and a clinging to the old model, symbolized by the lectern:

How can we be intentional about moving our church communities away from the habit of the lectern?

About the Author
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Leadership Development Consultant, Central East Regional Group (CERG) of the UUA. I have a vision of Unitarian Universalist congregations being led by thousands of diverse, spiritually mature and passionate people ready and willing to spread the good news of liberal religion.  I believe ministry is best when shared between lay and professional leaders. More information about me can be found on the UUA website.
  • Holly Lux-Sullivan

    Hey, Renee — For me, too, the lectern is all but gone except for preaching, and for our colleague, Rev. John Saxon, he preaches using his iPad, so he’s almost never behind the lectern. It scared the bejeezus out of me the first time I saw it, but now it’s making me want a tablet for the first time to have the freedom of movement and increased interaction with folks. He tipped me off to the blog, too. (: