Quick question- What is the purpose of the little table between the People and the Altar in Syrian rite churches? I was a little confused when I saw it.
In traditional Syriac churches, the Gospel book is kept at the front of the church in this basic location (i.e., between the people and the altar), and people will venerate it upon walking in to the church. In East Syrian churches (at least those I've been to), the Gospel is placed along with the Cross on a small table, whereas in West Syrian churches, the Gospel is simply kept on a lectern. What you saw was an East Syrian influence based on our past history. That table (I presume) had a Gospel book or a Bible, a Cross flanked on either side by candles, and perhaps some other items.
The table is a remnant of the ancient bema. Strictly speaking, the only liturgical service that takes place at the altar is the Eucharistic Liturgy. In the past, even the Liturgy of the Catechumens was conducted at the bema, and after this was done the clergy would enter the altar for the sacrifice. Nowadays, of course, the entire Liturgy occurs at the altar, but there are some hints pointing to the previous practice (e.g., the OT readings are read outside the altar at the "bema", the Epistles are read from the steps of the altar and not from the altar itself, and the Gospel is technically read at the door of the altar on the same level, but not from the altar itself). Apart from the Eucharist, all services are conducted at this table (e.g., all daily offices, all sacraments, and other occasional services) or within that general space between the people and the altar.