Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


January 3, 2013

Lord's table, crafted by hand for Christ Church

Allen Townsend, a member of Christ Church since the 1980s, said building a new altar for his Central Street church was a labor of love for him and his wife, Carol Reid Townsend.

In the middle of the altar, Townsend placed a Chi-Ro, one of the oldest symbols for Christ. He used ebony from Gabon, Africa to carve the letters onto the mahogany’s face to enrich the ornate ironwork in the sanctuary’s ceiling beams.

“It’s the sign of Christ, which marks it as his table,” Townsend said.

The letters Chi and Rho are the first two capital letters of the Greek work for Christ. They are superimposed to make the monogram.

“I’m very proud of it,” Townsend said. “It’s beautiful, creative and artistic. It’s about hope and it will be a significant part of the church’s life for years to come.”

The altar puts the finishing touch on a renovation project at Christ Church, which includes a new balcony for the organ featuring a wrought iron railing with a oak caps; wood details on the columns, beams and ceiling that matches the existing work in the sanctuary; installation of a ramp to make the altar accessible to the handicapped; adding dormers, or windows extending from the roof for natural light; replacing carpeting throughout the church with slate to enhance the acoustics and beauty and building a Romanesque arch leads to an apse or semicircle above the sanctuary featuring crowns, stars and crosses.

“At first I was intimidated to build an altar because it’s a very important part of the church. It’s the Lord’s table,” Townsend said. “It’s not just a beautiful piece of furniture, it’s a lot more than that.”

Bishop M. Thomas Shaw came recently to Christ Church at 25 Central St. to bless the altar and lead a service of leave taking for the Rev. Jeffrey Shilling Gill, pastor since 2005, who has taken a new assignment in Seattle, Wash.

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