Monday, June 25, 2012

Printing the Bulletin, Hearing the Word

Bulletins and I  go back a long way.  When I was growing up, the church bulletins were much less elaborate than they are now;  we were supposed to look up both the hymns and also find the correct liturgy (though there were only two options back then).  We did both.

Nevertheless, the appointed readings were printed on the back of the bulletin (it was not called a "worship folder" back then.)  I remember reading the lessons and thinking how cool it would be to cut them out and save them for a couple of years, because then I could cut and paste them together and make a whole Bible!

Lately, in the interests of being more hospitable, we've taken to printing more in our bulletins, now called "worship folders."  Most of the liturgy is printed in the bulletin now, so that we don't have to look it up.  We print the lessons, but not on the back page.  We print them right there in the middle of the worship folder; you don't even have to turn the page.  And, because some of our worship is more contemporary, we even print some of the songs now, because they aren't in the hymnal.

So in the past few weeks we have a new parish administrative assistant who is learning to put together worship folders.  Though she is an extremely competent person, it's a pretty high learning curve, so we've been simplifying our worship. 

For the past couple of weeks we have not been printing the scripture readings.

Some people have said that not printing the readings actually helps them listen better.  One woman said that her adult son actually looked up the readings in his Bible when he got home from worship, which can't be a bad thing.  It is also nice to have people looking at me or the reader instead of staring down at the page.   It made me wonder about how hospitable it really is when everyone is staring down at their paper all the time instead of paying attention to the singing and the liturgy, and one another.  Yeah, one another.   Could those really helpful worship folders be isolating us from one another?

On the other hand, sometimes I think I have seen some eyes glaze over during readings, as if we should have some sort of visual aid, at least, if we're not having printed words.  I also  noticed at worship last weekend the man from Ethiopia seemed a little disappointed that the readings weren't printed.  He is excellent at English, but I'll bet the printed word helps him. 

I'll be honest, the bulletin seems a little bare to me now, after seeing the printed word on the page for so long. 

On the other hand, what is it that makes our worship hospitable, that makes our congregation welcoming?  What is it that draws people to engage in worship together?  What is it that helps us hear and sing and pray as a body?  And what is it that keeps us separate?

How about you?  Do you print less in your worship folders these days?  How do you hear the Word?

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