I’ve scanned in the entire bulletin from our church service this past Sunday. At our church we follow a liturgy, which is a specific order of worship. There are a few different variations (they change with the church seasons and communion is only part of the service on the second and forth Sundays each month), but it is always structured and there are few enough variations that it is easy to memorize many of the “usual” prayers and responses and songs that we sing (if you go often enough). I scanned the whole thing in because usually we follow the service along in the Lutheran service book (which has the various layouts of worship in the first part of the book and all the hymns fill the rest). The bulletin typically has an abbreviated order of service (like an outline). But last Sunday the whole thing was printed up in along with italicized notes about WHY we do each little “part” of the service. I thought it was really interesting and wanted to share:
I always regard our church as taking a sort of academic approach to understanding Christ (and the Bible). The bulletin is quite plain. Black text on plain white paper. A simple design on the cover. I love how it is so simple and unadorned. To me, the words, the messages and the meanings become the very clear focus. Focusing on Bible passages (at least for me) takes a lot of concentration. People have entire discussions (or write entire volumes!) on mere verses. The words are not like the sentences I’m hammering out here. They’re God-breathed. It really is a “living” work and every verse is a chance for an amazing encounter- direct (!) –with God. But it takes focus and concentration. Clapping or crying or waving my hands would not facilitate the concentration, I personally, need to grasp the messages of the Bible. Not saying I don’t sometimes cry/have an emotional response as a result of a deeper spiritual understanding—I just like taking this sort of “academic” approach first.
It’s never too difficult to catch which part of the Bible is being studied during service (even when accompanied by Babyzilla). The verses are always printed on the back of the bulletin!
The hymns have lovely old syntax and multisyllabic vocabulary words that sometimes stretch on for measures. Truth be told, I don’t really know what a measure is in music-speak. But I enjoy the opportunity of the hymns to hear AND see the notes, even if I can’t technically “read” sheet music. (Side note: the hymns from the service were not printed in this handout: we sang them out of the book). Maybe I’ll borrow a hymnal for some more “scanning in” next week!
Perhaps you’ve scrolled to the end of this post and haven’t actually read a word of any of the pages (I so painstakingly scanned in)? The following are some questions I considered during/after this service and I think sharing these questions may reveal why I find this so interesting. Perhaps after considering all of these questions maybe you can scroll back up through the pages and at least check out some of the italicized blurbs and see what you think in relation to how you worship or praise or understand the notion of “church”. I won’t directly answer things I consider in attempting to answer these questions below (this is an essay, not a book!), but if you leave a comment I will be happy to continue the discussion!
If a church has lots of “bells and whistles” (i.e. a “band”, more “contemporary” music, colorful logos, video components, etc): Do you think these things are distracting to the messages?
What about the church service as a “stage” (literally and figuratively) to share our God-given talents? Art, music, design? What place (if any) do these things have in a church service?
Is there anything wrong with using such “bells and whistles” if the main goal is to attract more people (because obviously the churches with the “bells and whistles” certainly DO attract LOADS of people)?
What do you think of the idea of the “perfect prayer” (The Lord’s Prayer: the prayer Jesus tells us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13)? Do you say this prayer at church?
How significant is syntax and diction when it comes to the language used in a church service? (an example of this would be “The Lord bless you and keep you” instead of “May the Lord bless you…”
What are the benefits of eliciting an emotional response during a church service?
The theater can elicit a very emotional response, but going to a show is not the same as attending church; how are they different?
How do you think attending a church service should differ from attending a “show”?
Do you feel like an active participant when you attend church or an audience member?
Do you think using sheet music (as in a traditional hymnal) is significant in singing songs in church? (At least for me it sure is educational and has that “academic” feel I’m drawn to)
What are the benefits of following a consistent order of service?
Do you think there are any negatives to following a “strict” order of service (a liturgy)?
What about social media (streaming church services/virtual bible classes, etc.) and not participating live (in person)? Is that church?
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Please discuss among yourselves. Or here. And I do hope, Internet, God is among us at Spy Garden website. Perhaps it doesn’t qualify as “church” but it’s still a sort of gathering…or is it?