When you need a portable altar on the cheap

Hubby and I were in the Container Store tonight poking around after dinner tonight. Christmas (storage) shopping is upon us and I was initially shocked to see an artificial tree storage container large enough to double as a coffin. That’s the sort of thing I think about: looking to repurpose an inexpensive item for something that would ordinarily cost more. But even so, a clear plastic coffin isn’t my concept of a good idea.

After a bit of wandering apart, he called me over to look at a item that struck him as the epitome of a bad idea: their Gift Packaging Workstation. If you don’t look, it is sort of a hybrid of an under-bed storage box, with cubbies for storage, and the legs of a folding banquet table. An ideal place to wrap gifts if all your other tables are groaning under the weight of other household detritus, but the $99 price tag struck me as high, or ideal for the shopper who can’t say no. Who needs that kind of thing?

After a few seconds of shared revulsion, I realized this unlikely contraption might be useful as an altar-table for churches meeting in rented space. You could store the soft goods, including a fair linen and frontal (or tablecloth) and uncomplicated vesture in the body of the case, and — bonus! — there’s a shallow pull-out compartment on the top (perhaps intended for flat, folded wrapping paper) that would be ideal for a sermon manuscript, orders of service and other small papers. The $99 cost and added features compares well to the $800 for the military Lee-style aluminum altar (which reminds me of a taller version of the folding tables my grandparents used for picnicking) and which has no storage. Note, it is a little short for me (but not a deal breaker) to use if I were presiding over communion, but I’m rather tall, so for most people I imagine it would be perfect. It is, after all, designed as a working surface.

While I’m at it, other reuses I’ve written about include the IKEA flaming chalice and the Target folding pulpit.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Darling, are you forgetting that Candy Spelling had an entire room of her mansion devoted to gift-wrapping???

    I read that in People magazine over twenty years ago and have never stopped joking about it. “Well, it’s been nice to see you all, but I must repair to the Wrapping Room for a bit now. Ta ta.”

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