These are the front doors of Newark’s Wright Memorial United Methodist Church. I was there on a Saturday morning so they were locked but I lingered a moment to consider the ship or boat imagery above the door.
I studied just enough art history in college to know that boats of all kinds have long been associated with Christianity in a few ways- from Noah’s Ark to fishing boats and ideas of a spiritual journey on the sea of life.
Boats have also been used to symbolize the Church itself, reaching a safe haven with souls on board. Look carefully at a mast and it resembles a cross.
Yet, you don’t see a lot of boats presented so prominently in architecture choices around here. That’s not to say it isn’t there but it’s not commonly the first thing you see in this area.
Incidentally, the central seating area of a church is called the Nave. This word derives from navis, the Latin word for ship.
This church is impressive but resembles a fortress with its small windows, stone walls and heavy wood doors. I think the ship drew me in because it’s so delicate in comparison.
It reminded me of the Martin Luther King Jr quote “we may all have come on different ships but we’re in the same boat now.”
I continued on my own journey that fall day, encountering several more churches but none with this particular symbolism in the architecture. It seemed all the more special for that reason.