EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 26, 2012

Man builds new 'Lord's table' for his church

ANDOVER – Allen Townsend, who has been a member of Christ Church since the 1980s, said the hand crafting of a new altar for the church was a labor of love for him and his wife, Carol Reid Townsend.

“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,” he said. “It’s not just a beautiful piece of furniture, it’s a lot more than that.”

Tomorrow, Bishop M. Thomas Shaw will come to Christ Church at 25 Central St. to bless the altar. The leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts will also lead a service of leave taking for the Rev. Jeffrey Shilling Gill, pastor since 2005, who is taking a new assignment in Seattle, Wash.

Townsend, who retired from Bell Labs/Lucent Technologies, began working on the altar in August, 2011 when the church started renovating its sanctuary. The goal was to create a table design instead of a box altar as the church had before. He read books on the history of altars to get ideas on designs.

After making hand sketches of different styles Townsend made 3D sketches on a computer.

The final design was accepted last December by Gill and Brother Kevin Hackett of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal monastery in Cambridge.

Townsend said when Hackett saw the design it reminded him of a tree - sturdy and well grounded like the architecture of the sanctuary directing his eyes up to the top of the table and up to heaven.

Townsend used mahogany for the primary wood with Australian lace wood as an accent because its reddish brown color complements the mahogany. He said mahogany would also go well with the brown sandstone and red brick in the front wall of the sanctuary, while it stands out from the back wall paneled with white oak.

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