- 1: an elevated platform or high reading desk used in preaching or conducting a worship service
- 2a : the preaching profession
- b : a preaching position
Pulpit is a speakers' stand in a church. In many Christian churches, there are two speakers' stands at the front of the church. Typically, the one on the left (as viewed by the congregation) is called the pulpit. Since the Gospel lesson is often read from the pulpit, the pulpit side of the church is sometimes called the gospel side.
The other speaker's stand, usually on the right (as viewed by the congregation), is known as the lectern. The word lectern comes from the Latin word "lectus", past participle of legere, meaning "to read", because the lectern primarily functions as a reading stand. It is typically used by lay people to read the scripture lessons (except for the Gospel lesson), to lead the congregation in prayer, and to make announcements. Because the epistle lesson is usually read from the lectern, the lectern side of the church is sometimes called the epistle side. In other churches, the lectern, from which the Epistle is read, is located to the congregation's left and the pulpit, from which the sermon is delivered, is located on the right (the Gospel being read from either the center of the chancel or in front of the altar).
In churches where there is only one speaker's stand in the center of the front of the church, it serves the functions of both lectern and pulpit and is properly called the ambo. In common usage, however, ambos are incorrectly called pulpits.
The word ambo comes from a Greek word meaning an elevation. It was originally an elaborate raised platform in the middle of the nave from which the Epistle and Gospel would be read, and was occasionally used as a speaker's platform for homilies. It was joined to the sanctuary by a raised walkway called the soleas. In modern Eastern Christian use, this form of the ambo is now very rare. Instead, the area directly in front of the Beautiful Gates of the iconostasis from which the Gospel is typically read is called the ambo, and the entire low elevation above the level of the nave in front of the iconostasis is called the soleas. In larger churches, the ambo might be distinguished by three curved steps from which one might reach it from the nave.
In Eastern Orthodox cathedrals there is usually a low platform in the center of the nave called the episcopal ambo where the bishop is vested prior to the Divine Liturgy and where he is enthroned until the Little Entrance. If the bishop is serving in a simple parish church, an episcopal ambo is set temporarily in place.