People are coming and going these days.
School is out and most of the students have left for the summer. The graduates have left to start their new lives. The people who have homes in Maine or Cape Cod or Vermont or other Northeastern spots are headed out to spend the two hottest months in Virginia away from Virginia.
Meanwhile, many tourists are visiting town.
What that means at church on Sunday is that many familiar faces are missing, but the church is more full than ever. People from all over the world worship with us on Sunday mornings when they are visiting Colonial Williamsburg. This morning I met a couple who come three times a year from a nearby state. And I met a family from quite far away who are here for the first time. Some of our guests are Episcopalians, but many are not.
It's important, when you are a church that enjoys so many visitors, to be aware of all sorts of details: the ones that truly say "welcome," and the ones that are not so helpful. For instance, we do the welcome and announcements at the beginning of each service, rather than in the middle as so many churches do, because we know that there are many people sitting in the pews who are not familiar with our worship. They may not know what BCP stands for or which book is the hymnal. These things are spelled out in the bulletin as best we can, but it's also important to say something about the service before it begins.
We also print as much in the bulletin as we can (the readings, many of the prayers, the words to the choir anthems) and point people to the hymnal or Book of Common Prayer for the things that are not printed. This makes for a lot of paper being printed, and sometimes we feel bad about that. We've discussed a few ideas about how to cut back on paper, as many churches do - by not printing so much, or perhaps just using the Prayer Book without a bulletin at all, by putting a QR code outside the doors so people can download a bulletin to their iPads and smart phones.
But in the end, for now, we realize that we need to print the readings (our Colonial church doesn't have a sound system) and that it is more hospitable to continue to do what we are doing. For now.
Every church has its own set of blessings and liabilities. And so blanket ideas and statements are not that helpful, but I'm curious about how your church handles the question of bulletins and printed materials. Do you print one bulletin for all services (if you have multiple services)? Do you print the readings and prayers? Or do you rely on the BCP for the order of service and announce the hymns and page numbers? Do you use electronic media at all for the service (i.e., scanning a QR code to access a bulletin or projecting hymns onto a screen, etc.)?
I'd enjoy hearing from you!