What Will We Use on Sunday?

Booklets or Prayer Books?

A message from Bishop Steven Charleston.

I know that after our Lenten experiment of using the Prayer Books in our pews to worship rather than printed booklets, many people have been asking which of these choices we will use in the days to come.

The answer is: I don't know. My plan was to give us a chance to experience the BCP as the traditional form of Episcopal worship, then let the St. Paul's community discuss this experience as part of the worship planning with the new Dean. I believe this must be a community decision. After Easter, given the positive response to our experiment, we will continue with the use of the shorter format bulletins until the end of the interim, the last Sunday of May. Then, until the new Dean arrives, we will return to the use of the booklets.

Beyond that, the final choice will be up to each of you, the people of St. Paul's, in conversation with your new Dean. As the interim, my task was not to make changes in the way our cathedral worships, but rather to help the community adapt to change.

And, if you stop to think about it, that is just what we did: we adapted to change.

For those of you who liked using the Prayer Book, you got a chance to feel what it was like to experience worship as most of your Episcopal contemporaries do. Using the traditional form of worship that has been an integral part of our Anglican identity.

For those who liked using the booklets, you had the experience of regaining your skills in handling the old fashioned BCP service and you tried on the traditions that went into the design of the booklet that you have come to expect as part of the culture of the cathedral.

There were no "winners and losers" in this experiment: just members of the same family being generous in their willingness to try something different. For many of us who live in a world of competition and passive aggressive behavior, this very common sense, adult and essentially kind style of behavior was a learning in itself.

It shows that at St. Paul's we can share in change without running to our "side" of the argument, without whispering or complaint, without rancor or division. In fact, we can enjoy the experience of change as something refreshing, enlivening, and encouraging. Our small Lenten journey into the Book of Common Prayer was not a detour into change for the sake of change, but rather a very worthwhile reminder that we are a church of open-minded and experienced Christians who do not need to make a fetish out of any preference, but are very able to allow our friends to express their opinions freely and with respect.

I think you can imagine why this kind of culture will be helpful to the new Dean. Not only when it comes to worship choices at St. Paul's, but to the one hundred and one other things that will call this community to grow during his or her tenure in our community.

So when she or he arrives, one of the first tasks that will be placed before the new Dean will be the need to decide, along with all of you, an answer to the questions about your style of worship. You may stay with only one option. You may just as easily use both. Or any combinations of them you desire. But the important thing is: you will make these changes as friends.

Which, after all, is what Jesus called us to be.