“That with an iron stylus and lead
They were engraved in the rock forever!”
Job 19: 24
Church bulletins are incredible documents and I am always so impressed by those who put them together, often in a volunteer capacity. They are documents that testify to the energy, diversity and range of activities that our parishes engage in, and to be frank, I am always humbled by the passion they display. I think of this every Sunday when I gather up the latest bulletin. As someone who produced a newsletter for many years, I appreciate the effort that goes into these works, and I think it is important that we all pause to thank those who make them available.
It was this that prompted me to write to the editors of local parish bulletins to solicit their thoughts about writing newsletters, but also to send me their funniest mishaps over time. What I found was that there is a long legacy of hilarious errors that have appeared over the years in all our publications. My favourites from international bulletins include an invitation to a Low Self-Esteem Support Group with the added instruction, “Please use the back door.” I also enjoyed a note that informed parishioners that the cost to attend the prayer and fasting conference included meals. Or how about this one: “Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don’t forget your husbands.”
There was one American church bulletin that announced that the peacemaking meeting was “cancelled because of a conflict” — no doubt a scheduling conflict, but who knows? And for all those parents, like me, who have attended countless dramatic productions by their beloved children, there is this wonderful announcement: “The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the church basement Friday at 7 p.m. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.” I wonder if this was at the same place that announced, “Potluck supper on Friday — prayer and medication to follow.” In Calgary one bulletin congratulated Bishop Henry on his “Episcopalian anniversary” instead of Episcopal anniversary! Bishop Henry . . . who knew?
In the end, a church bulletin is a prayer of sorts that carries intentions, hopes, requests and instructions for how to move throughout our week. They are also a gift, that one person, or a team, is making both for the specific church, but also for the faith more widely. Just as importantly, they are an act of hospitality — a letter reaching out to all and reminding us that we are a community united by faith, by practice . . . and yes, sometimes by mishap.
Turcotte is president of St. Mary’s University in Calgary.