The rood screen

The rood screen‘Rood’ is Old English for Cross. The original purpose of rood screen was, I believe, for worshippers to enact going towards God through the screen - the Cross, through Christ crucified. While this approach to God is still an essential part of Christian doctrine, how many of us see the screen as other than a beautiful carving, or, possibly, as a barrier to contain the choir?

For me the rood screen is especially significant when I have a particular problem which can’t be resolved however much I go over it in my mind or among friends. Then ‘going up’ for Communion has to mean going through the screen. It doesn’t ‘work’ if it takes place on the platform. I don’t want God at my level, I want to be made to leave that behind. Going Up through the screen reminds me that the world is much bigger than I have been supposing, that it contains, and has always contained many more problems than my own, and that there is a dimension beyond ‘now’, beyond mundanity and my own littleness. It is more than a reminder, it is a participation because we have to physically do something, not sit still and simply imagine.

On Sunday morning this works as the priest says ‘draw near with faith’. The awareness of a wider dimension is not only by going through the screen into the private house of God, but also in the company of those one goes with, kneels beside, and passes on the way, and in the arch of music provided by the choir. Now I have come to value the rood screen, to be in churches which don’t have one is like missing out a whole section of the service - a sense of incompletion. For me the rood screen represents the gateway to the world beyond.

Ann R Parker
© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 19th December 1999