The Altar and Font
In line with modern liturgical developments, after the 2006 reordering of St. Leonard’s Church the centre point of our eucharistic worship, the altar or communion table, was moved closer to the congregation: so that there might be a clearer sense of people gathered round this table to share in the sacrament of Communion, and so that all might feel more intimately and keenly involved in what was happening there. While the sanctuary altar remains in its place, a new altar was introduced to stand on the raised dais at the front of the nave.
A new and imposing font was placed on the dais, where baptisms can happen in sight of the whole congregation. It stands prominently as a constant reminder to all worshippers of their own baptism in Christ. Three artists and craftspeople from West Sussex, assisted by others and in consultation with church leaders, have been involved in this project:
Polly Meynell, an artist working primarily in ecclesiastical textiles, has designed the altar, with four fabric panels to hang in turn on its front, each with colours and shapes depicting particular seasons or celebrations of the church year. The altar is oval, seeking to soften and hold together the lines of the chancel and the nave, and is constructed in ash, as are the nave chairs. On its front, though sometimes hidden by a frontal hanging, and on its top are inlaid in black walnut the trinary cross that figures elsewhere in the nave.
Mel Howse, an artist specializing in architectural glass design and enamels on metals, has designed the font. Its bowl is of enamelled steel with swirling blue and turquoise hues inside depicting the movement of water. The clear nylon collar beneath suggests the bowl is floating, while the stand is turned in ash to complement the sweeping lines of the altar.
Peter West, a specialist in woodturning and making fine furniture, has crafted the wood on both the altar and the font.