I find Methodist chapels disappointing. This is because so many of them have endured 'Reordering'.
The traditional English pattern for Methodist ... and other Protestant Non-Conforming ... chapels was that they were dominated, at the"ritual East end" by a broad pulpit, stretching most of the width of the chapel except for a stair up to it at left and right. A reading Desk marked the middle. Beneath the Reading Desk, there was a small table for communion services.
In chapel after chapel, all this has been removed. They now have an adaptable space, probably with some posters, children's toys, guitars ...
So what? Why should I bother?
Well, I don't, a lot. But it seems to me that the ritually-expressed purpose of Worship, in the Methodist tradition, has been profoundly altered.
Because, surely, the meaning of the old set-up was: the proclamation of the Word of God is important; the Minister is to be regarded as an authoritative exponent of the Scripture and as one commissioned to summon the community to repentance and faith. His physical position even assimilated him to the Tabernacle in a Catholic Church or the Torah Shrine in a Synagogue.
Yes; it's dodgy expounding the religion of other people ... if you are knowledgeable, do feel free to engage critically with my assumptions.
The removal of the pulpit seems to me, until I am better advised, to suggest the unhorsing of that old tradition, and its replacement by something deemed to be less rigid and more flexible, with less authority to be discerned in the words of the preacher. Something more affective. If this is so, then I would regard the change as a divergence from the Catholic Tradition in as far as we do still consider Scripture as authoritative. And if I were to get rhetorical, as I so often do, I might make sarcastic remarks about a religion which began by claiming to be Bible-centred in a way that other Christians were alleged not to be [many West Country Methodist chapels still claim in stone above their porticoes to be "Bible Christian", one of the sects into which Wesleyanism split up] had ended up by dethroning the Word of God (as their penultimate stage before being sold for redevelopment into bijou residences named "Ye Olde Chapel").
As a mere observer and outsider (but still a fellow Christian), my complaint is that these once evocative and impressive buildings are now just dead boring little (or big) spaces.
They have no message. Rather like the empty red Art Deco telephone boxes just across the road.