Introducing "Coffee Hour Questions"
With this post, I introduce a new series on this blog: Coffee Hour Questions. In this series, I plan to respond to questions that I am asked which I think may be of broad interest in the parish. Sometimes these may be theological or philosophical in nature, and sometimes they may be about happenings in the parish or in the national church or in the global Anglican Communion.
To launch the series, I thought it would be helpful to use this forum to answer questions that have arisen in connection with the expanded bulletin format with which we began experimenting in December.
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive to the expanded bulletin format. Many have said they find it much easier to follow the liturgy and that the bulletins are easier to use during our worship. There seems to be a broad consensus that the new format is more visitor friendly, which is, of course, the hope of our Everybody Welcome initiative.
As a result of this process, we've received some excellent questions that I want to share with the parish, along with my responses.
Why do we need the new bulletin format?
We’ve expanded our bulletins as part of our Everybody Welcome initiative. It’s often noted that the Church is the only institution that exists with a primary mission to those who are not its members: we are sent to be a blessing to those we often don’t know yet. Our bulletins are not about us (many of whom have already memorized the liturgy anyway!), but about the guests we expect will come. We want to be as hospitable as possible, especially to young families. Juggling a prayer book, a hymnal, and a bulletin while keeping a hand on little Suzy in a pew while surrounded by people you don’t know is exceedingly difficult when all is unfamiliar; indeed, it is a recipe for an anxious experience, and not the best we can offer our guests.
Why aren’t we using the Book of Common Prayer?
We are in fact using the Book of Common Prayer (BCP)! With the expanded bulletins, we are using the 1979 prayer book the way it was always intended by its designers.
The liturgies we use, which are printed in the bulletin, for the most part come straight from the BCP or other sources authorized by our General Convention. We stick to authorized liturgies. The change is that we are using a broader ranges of our authorized texts, with special attention to language tailored for key events in the liturgical year, and printing more of these texts in the bulletin.
If we don’t make newcomers learn how to use the prayer book, how will they ever become Episcopalians?
Episcopalians are much more than prayer book jugglers. What makes us Episcopalian is not how well we juggle our prayer books, but rather the particular ways we wrestle with Scripture, liturgy, and mission, and how we govern ourselves.
The more important point to remember, however, is that when the 1979 prayer book was written and introduced, it was not intended to be a book through which the congregation works sequentially in a worship service. It was designed as an anthology of liturgical resources upon which we draw to tailor our worship experience to our specific contexts. As you know, it is filled with “If this, then go to page X....” rubrics that provide tremendous flexibility in the construction of the services so that they can be much more sensitive to our specific occasion for gathering. This flexibility grew tremendously when General Convention produced the Enriching Our Worship series of rites. This flexibility helps to combat staleness in our worship while being much more sensitive to what’s going on in our common life. With the Everybody Welcome style bulletins, we are better able to do what the designers intended for us to do.
I am worried that we are wasting money because the new bulletins have more pages.
Our production costs for bulletins each week now average only about $12. Considering the average St. Thomas’ pledge of roughly $2,000 over several years, we only need to have one typical family or person join us to make this a worthwhile investment of our resources. However, that is not the full story. In fact, we also have eliminated the cost of purchasing special bulletin inserts for the collect and Scripture readings (a cost of $1007 in 2010).
I am concerned that we are not being good stewards of the earth or not being green or “killing many more trees” by using bulletins that require more pages.
Stewardship of the environment is an important concern. We already have in place the practice of recycling the paper used in our bulletins. We will enhance this existing practice by locating special bulletin recycling bins in the two narthexes to make it even easier for us to recycle bulletins. We have also verified that the additional paper does not increase our cost of recycling.
I am concerned that the new bulletins no longer require us to dig into the Book of Common Prayer to follow the liturgy. I like the feel of the prayer book in my hands and want to keep using it.
There is much to be said for the tactile feel of the prayer book during worship. Those who prefer to follow along in the prayer book rather than using the text printed in the bulletin can readily do so since the texts are usually identical. When we use language from the Enriching Our Worship rites authorized by General Convention, the easiest approach will usually be to follow the liturgy in the bulletin.
Sat, January 8, 2011
by Fr Craig David Uffman filed under