The Sunday bulletin
Friday, September 7, 2018 at 4:20PM
Robert Gallagher

Recently Sister Michelle, OA was asked to offer her thoughts about possible changes to the parish’s Sunday bulletin.

The concept is pretty simple - you print only BCP and Hymnal page numbers, along with the order of service. Specific responses of the people, such as the psalm, are printed. Basically, if you print a bunch of text, people will read it. They won't look to the liturgical action - they will read. It’s just natural.

I personally wouldn’t recommend just changing the bulletin. I think you have a lot going on and, as you’ve mentioned, there may well be some change fatigue. 

There are multiple issues. You want to increase the competence and confidence of the regulars, and you want to provide orientation to newcomers, as well as permission to learn. No one is comfortable with the liturgy when they first show up - getting comfortable requires familiarity and it’s part of the inclusion process.

I suggest you have some signage, along the lines of, “If you are unfamiliar with Episcopal worship please relax with the liturgy and let the rest of the congregation carry you in prayer.”

Then start building greater competence for participation by offering an experiential Eucharistic Practices class several times a year, and avoiding giving instructions yourself during the Liturgy, such as announcing page numbers or telling people when to sit and stand.

Part of the Eucharistic Practices class can be having participants experience the difference between reading and listening - do a mini Gospel procession once with people reading along and once looking at the reader. Have them talk about the differences. Explain the role of readings in liturgy and the important liturgical principle of looking toward the liturgical action. 

Doing that regularly lays the groundwork for then making some changes down the road, depending on readiness of congregation.  You could do some simple testing to get a read on how committed folks are to the fully-printed leaflet.  In some places it could be very easy to change the whole thing; in others, you could maybe stop printing the Gospel since it’s so obviously silly to have this big procession and then have everyone staring at their leaflet - like reading the lines of a play while attending the theatre.

Michelle Heyne, OA


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