It’s now been three months since we first unveiled our new worship aids at our weekend Masses, and I am happy to report that the parish response has been overwhelmingly positive!
These aids represent an approach that we’re trying to bring to every decision we make at St. Mary’s: “How would we want our church to feel to someone who is coming to the Catholic Church for the first time – or perhaps for the first time in a long time?”
The feedback we have received tells us that the weekly worship aid would likely make a newcomer feel included, helped and welcomed. It gives our volunteer greeters a natural reason to make contact with every person walking through the doors of the church. Once seated, a guest is able to flip through the pages and know the basics of what to expect from the flow of the liturgy and be able to respond along with the assembly and participate as fully as they feel comfortable. Parents have told us that it’s a tremendous teaching tool for their kids, and helps them understand and keep focus at Mass. In the closing procession at the end of Mass, as I was passing by one mom with kids beside her, she held up the Worship Aid with one hand, pointed to it with the other and silently mouthed: “Thank you.”
Since we have hundreds of people from Warren County and many other parts of the country watching Mass each week on our livestream, the worship aid is a bridge to members of our “Virtual Parish,” which empowers them to download the prayers, readings and music and participate with us from afar.
A few people have asked about the expense of the worship aid. How could we afford to print 300 color copies each week? In order to answer that question, I should explain that the Breaking Bread hymnals that we had used previously cost $5.72 a copy and $270 to ship. For the 300 copies we needed, that was a $1,986 annual cost. Our worship aids cost us $.08 each, which includes the cost of paper. Multiplying 300 copies times 52 weeks comes out to $1,248… a savings of over $700 a year! Our Seeley Office Systems contract involves a flat rate with no extra cost for color copies. We’ve been told that the wear-and-tear from these weekly copies is minimal; we’ll be able to make 100,000 copies before we need to replace the rollers.
We always want to consider the environment in any and all decisions we make at St. Mary’s, so we make one set of worship aids to be used and reused for all three Masses. Most people don’t take them home after Mass, so we have plenty for everyone, even at the 11:15 a.m. Mass. After that final Sunday Mass, we recycle all the leftovers. The large recycling bin at the entrance is a reminder at the end of Mass of the value of recycling in general, and sends a good message about environmental mindfulness.
Sue Wright, our wonderful Pastoral Associate for Music and Liturgy, is the one who creates the worship aids each week, and works closely with me, as well as Judy Lebel, a fantastic volunteer and coordinator of the Livestream Ministry. Together, Sue and Judy are constantly gathering ideas and finding ways to improve the worship aid, helping it to be as concise and complete as possible. (Thank you so much, Sue and Judy, for all your dedication and diligence!)
The worship aids are not perfect. Some parishioners have noted that they don’t fit in the pew book holders as well as the hymnals did, and alternate designs than ours might have pros that ours does not. But overall it seems that newcomers, livestreamers, AND veteran parishioners alike are enjoying the ease and convenience of these aids for our weekly worship of God.