Many of us are familiar with Henry W. Longfellow’s words in his poem entitled, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” It was the signal orchestrated by Revere at the brink of the American Revolutionary War. This secret signal’s purpose was to warn the patriots of which route to anticipate the arrival of British troops.
Where could these lanterns be seen by everyone, but yet remain undetected? A common architectural feature of churches is the Lantern Tower. The Old North Church in Boston had just such a feature.
Churches with a lantern tower often have a floor plan that resembles a cross (called "cruciform"). The lantern tower is positioned at the junction where each branch comes together. The lantern tower of First Baptist Church Mount Sterling is separate from the steeple and rests above the church’s lobby (precisely at the intersection of the cross floor plan).
The purpose of the lantern tower is two-fold. First, it allows light into the building. It is a symbolic picture of emphasizing the importance of the cross by “shining light on the cross.” Second, the lantern tower shines light into the community, a symbolic picture of the church’s role in “shining the light of Christ” into a dark world.
Architecture has always been important to me. I appreciate the great symbolism that architects incorporate into their designs. However, I must continually remind myself that the “function” of the church is more important than the “form” of the church. May the symbols be reminders of our purpose. We must never think that the lantern tower can replace our responsibility to illuminate the cross in our own lives. Furthermore, we must never think that the lantern tower can replace our duty to spread the light of the Gospel into our community. If given a choice between maintaining a “lantern tower” or equipping people to be light in our community, may we always choose the authentic over the symbolic.
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in vocational ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."