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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel S.J. Scheid SCP

What is Father Dan Thinking? 1-7-24

I’m of two minds when it comes to Mass bulletins (I’m of two minds about many things, come to think of it …).

 

On the one hand, I’d like chuck the bulletin entirely, or at least to reduce it to a bare minimum of information, such prayer book page numbers and hymn numbers, eliminating a distraction in order to invite focus on what’s being read, prayed, and done. A bare-bones, half-sheet, single-sided bulletin would use much less paper and toner, and take far less time to produce. It would invite greater familiarity with The Book of Common Prayer and The Hymnal 1982 through the serendipity of turning pages to get where we need to be in the service.

 

On the other hand, a full-on bulletin is easier to navigate than juggling two books plus a sheet of paper. For the hearing-impaired, the printed text is more inclusive. It offers a more hospitable welcome to visitors and people new to our worship. Less page flipping and book juggling invites, I hope, closer attention to the celebration of the Mass, especially for those who are regular church-goers. And while it takes time to publish, once I produce a template, it’s mostly an exercise of cutting, copying, and pasting from one week to the next. It's not too complicated or complex an endeavor.

 

Somewhere in between is the partial bulletin – printing some parts of the Mass while pointing out others in the books. This third way, it seems to me, is neither fish nor fowl; or, to use a biblical image, it’s a lukewarm approach that makes God want to spit (Revelation 3:16).

 

Since ours is a city and a culture peopled with people who are largely unfamiliar with religious ritual, the hospitality of a full-on bulletin seems the better choice – start at the beginning and keep going to the end.

 

Now, sharp-eyed bulletin readers will notice that I’ve added even more to our full-on bulletin: rubrics and instructions and additional prayers and such. This is because I want the bulletin to be more than our order of service. I want it to be a formation and teaching tool, both for the experienced and the unexperienced worshipper. The rubrics, instructions, and prayers say something about God, about who we are, and about what we believe. Lex orendi, lex credendi is one of our maxims: loosely translated this Latin phrase means “how we pray is what we believe.” This is one reason why I invite you to take your bulletin with you. You can learn from it, as well as use it as a tool to help you in your praying and meditating.

 

While these extras risk adding distracting clutter, I hope that, since they don’t change much from week to week, you will learn to skim over them during Mass, and look at them in more detail, if you wish, later on. Perhaps something you read will prompt a question of me, or some further research on your own.

 

You’ll also note that I’ve shrunk the bulletin from legal-sized paper, folded in half, to letter-sized paper, folded in half. The print is the same size as it was, even though the booklet is smaller by three inches. I’ve done this for practical, economic reasons. Letter-sized paper is much less expensive than legal-sized paper, and it’s far easier to find in pastels. Since our copier prints only in black and white, colored paper offers a tie-in with the colors of the liturgical season we’re in.

 

I’m not the only priest who thinks about such things. Clergy groups and Episcopal communicator groups I follow on-line are always talking about bulletins. Everybody has an opinion. What’s yours?

 

God’s blessings and peace,                

 

Dan+

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