Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Great Bulletin Debate...

There is a great debate about what should be in a worship or service bulletin or folder (depending upon your nomenclature) and what should be taken directly from the hymnal. 
  • There are those who believe that only the barest outline of information (hymn numbers for the day and a few page numbers directing your attention to the liturgical section).  
  • There are those who believe that the items not included in the hymnal can or should be printed out (hymn numbers, collect, prayer of the day, lessons, etc.).  
  • Then there are those who believe the the whole liturgical section should be printed out (with all the seasonal adjustments in order to prevent page turning searches for where we are now).  
  • Then there are those who believe that the whole liturgical section and the hymns should be included in the weekly printed bulletin.
  • Finally there are those who do not believe anything much should be printed but do believe it should be PowerPointed during the service (on the infamous big screen).
Personally, over the course of my 31 years as a Pastor, I have used each of the first three options.  In each of the options, there were certain circumstances that were conducive to the choice made.  In my first parish, we used TLH and it was a familiar resource, with few real options or variations, and the people were accustomed to the setting.  They needed little direction or written outline in order for them to know and anticipate what was to come.  When we introduced LW there, we took more than six months and introduced the new LBW style Divine Service settings piece by piece of the ordinary.  So, we printed this out.  Later, after the individual parts had been learned, we used a printed order glued into the front cover of TLH.  Only when the people were comfortable with the setting did we trot out the new hymnals sitting in a closet in storage awaiting the moment that they would replace TLH.

That moment did not exactly come.  The variations and options of LW and some of the ways things were laid out there, made it hard for them to go from page to page in TLH to page, skip a page, turn back a page, etc... of LW.  So this necessitated a bit more bulletin and a bit more direction than I had hoped.  In the end we settled into the routine of a more elaborate outline along with items not located in the hymnal.

When I came to my present parish, LW was in the pews but it was clearly not a book they were comfortable with (even though it had sat in the pews for ten years or so).  It was still "new" and "foreign" to them.  The book did not facilitate the worship but became a stumbling block.  After months and months of seeing people stand there without the book in their hands, with lips not moving, and clearly looking like they did not know what was going on, we embarked in a "reintroduction" of LW.  Again, I used the printed order of service to reintroduce the Divine Service, piece by piece.  In the end, they learned the service but were addicted to the crutch of a more elaborate and printed order.

I should note by way of explanation that the first parish was in a community fairly stable and even stagnant in population.  The next parish was far different.  This was a highly mobile community and the congregation reflected this.  We had people coming and going all the time -- still do.  We are very near Ft. Campbell and we also have a highly mobile industrial labor force.  Some years 1 of every 4 people in Church on Sunday morning changes due to moving in and moving out.  I began to see that these were folks coming from various Lutheran backgrounds, hymnals, and liturgical traditions.  The printed order became a quick and easy way to bridge this diversity and put us all on the same page -- literally.  It also allowed me a narrow column to mark the Scriptures behind each section of the liturgy and explain church usages associated with that portion of the liturgy.  I will admit that I gave in to the need but in the end, the result was highly successful.

After LSB was introduced, I hoped that the easy organizational format of that book might make the printed bulletin and with its complete liturgical text and music superfluous.  It did not.  In fact, there was a rebellion when I attempted to stop printing it out.  The folks liked the ease of following, they loved the printed Scriptural references and explanations in a side column, they took the bulletin home with them for daily prayers, they loved the printed outline of the sermon, those with hearing issues preferred to have the printed text of the lessons... all sorts of reasons.  So, we continue to use it.  It is not my preference but it is effective for this place.  With so many new folks coming in, we are all on the same page on Sunday morning.  It might have been in the hymnal but it has remained the printed liturgy.

With respect to the variances between what we print and what is in the hymnal, there are only a few.  We use the word "catholic" in the text of the creed (something reserved for a footnote in the text of LSB and what I feel is a real cop out when this book was adopted).  The other thing, we use a full eucharistic prayer.  The forms of this prayer are drawn from several sources -- Worship Supplement 1969, Peter Brunner's Worship in the Name of Jesus, LW (the chopped up and disbursed parts of the canon there are reassembled into the prayer as they were originally found from German Lutheran and Swedish Lutheran sources), the canon from Hymnal Supplement 98 (again reshuffled so that the Verba are inserted and the Our Father follows the eucharistic prayer in traditional form), and, finally, the text from LSB (again, with the Verba inserted into the prayer and the Our Father following the canon as is traditional Western form).  I will admit that there are those who will object to this but I object to lack of a eucharistic prayer and to the deviant canon which has become the norm in so much of Lutheranism.  All of the words I use have been "official" in Missouri though they are not actually printed out in LSB (or at least not exactly as ordered there).

So there you have some of my history, some of my practice, and some of the rational behind it.  With respect to the use of a bulletin or service folder, I see that this may be a more local decision and not necessarily one that I would take with me from this place (if the circumstances were different).  I know that I would not ever follow the order where the Verba follow the Our Father -- to me that is a deal breaker -- but the choice of how much or how little to put in the bulletin depends.... it just depends...

So now I am sure that I have upset some and disappointed others and surprised a few.... that is where I am at now...


Unknown said...

I may need to re-read this blog entry a few more times. In a congregation of small numbers like 250 or less, I wonder about the cost of photocopying the bulletins with all the material printed out. It is not trivial. In addition, it is good and orderly for members to learn to use the hymnal. Lastly, how lazy are our members, that we must print it all in one convienent package?

That being said, I think printing out the order of service with extras for the visitors might be a good practice because they are not familar with our liturgy and order of services.

Anonymous said...

If the Worship Service is printed
out in its entirety, then you do not
need a hymnal in the pew. Total
print out is a luxury of the large

However, when the laity must learn
to use the hymnal for the entire
Worship Service, then the hymnal
becomes a friend to them. This is
what happens in a small parish with
no full time secretary.

Jon Micheel said...

The points made by the previous commenters are certainly valid ones. However, what struck me about Pr. Peters' rationale for printing out the service was the diversity of people's backgrounds. I find the same thing in my parish. Many of our members are longtime Lutherans, but a good many are not. And we regularly have folks attending who have never been in a liturgical service before. Therefore we find it beneficial to print the liturgy, with some notes and Scripture references, in the bulletin. Even if guests do not look up the references, it at least (I hope) signals to them that the service is drawn from the Bible. In addition, I also like the ability to make seasonal alterations in the service without necessitating copious instructions to guide people to page and section numbers.

I certainly agree that following the service in the hymnal is really not that difficult. And I, too, sometimes cringe at the amount of paper we use to print out the service. But for now it seems for us the most beneficial way to help people from diverse backgrounds to listen, sing and pray together.

Pastor Peters said...

We print out 240-250 copies per week. We spend no more on our "home produced" pages with our own covers than we did when we purchased color bulletin stock from CPH. We have three 81/2x14 sheets plus the cover and that gives us all the announcements and printed liturgy. Paper runs us about 2 reams per week (@ $5.50 per ream) and we do not use copier but a Riso. All things considered, cost is not really an important consideration. BTW we also recycle all the paper -- even having those who attended first service and do not need several copies in a household turn them back in for reuse at late service.

Sunday is the only time we print it all out -- the other three services per week are out of the hymnal...

William Weedon said...

I'd be curious to see your textual adaptation of the LSB prayer. Care to share?

Terry Maher said...

In my parish, we have a printed bulletin, the service on a screen, and LSB in the pews (which is exactly where they stay, nobody uses them). There is a place to put the printed bulletins after the service for recycling.

As to a canon, there is no reason for any Lutheran pastor any time any where to use a damn canon and complicate the clear simple words of our Lord.