Saturday, September 11, 2010

Refuge in The Almanac

Newspaper storyA St. Paul’s press release on the new Refuge service became a story in The Almanac this week. There is much to like in this story, and it is refreshing to see St. Paul’s taking advantage of The Almanac as a vehicle for publicizing its activities. (You can read the story here. It is actually on the Web site of the newspaper, but it is buried in the middle of the page that is hard to find.)

Unfortunately, the story runs off the rails in the last paragraph:
As are all of St. Paul’s worship services, Refuge @ St. Paul’s is free and open to the public. The church also offers a youth-oriented outdoor service at 6 p.m. Saturdays in St. Margaret’s Garden, a family-friendly, contemporary service at 8:45 a.m. Sundays, and a more traditional, choral liturgy at 10:30 a.m. Sundays.
That first sentence plays into my fears that the new service is more entertainment than worship. Whereas most people understand that an offering may be taken up at church services, they generally do not expect to pay an admission charge, though they usually do have such an expectation when attending an entertainment event. Moreover, why do we need to emphasize that not only is Refuge @ St. Paul’s “free and open to the public,” but that so are our other services. This seems to suggest that either this has not always been the case at St. Paul’s and we need to emphasize the change in policy, or that we think that other churches have services that charge admission and for which attendance is by invitation only. Mostly this sentence makes us look clueless.

Finally, it was certainly a good idea to include information about other services at St. Paul’s, but there are a few things wrong with the characterization of our Saturday Eucharist:
  1. It is not clear where “St. Margaret’s Garden” is. A reader might assume it is on the church grounds, but a reader might just as easily assume it is some other venue with which he or she is simply unfamiliar.
  2. I would not describe the 6 P.M. Saturday service as “youth-oriented.” Few attendees could be described as “youth”; the service seldom includes music; it is a conventional prayerbook service; and, more often than not, it is conducted by one of our older priests.
  3. Finally, I have to point out that, although the Saturday service has been held in St. Margaret’s Garden all summer, as of today (i.e., the first Saturday after the story appeared in The Almanac), the service has been moved to Old St. Luke’s.
Alas, communication is still a major problem at St. Paul’s.


jmhjr4 said...

I'm not so sure the term "free" means what you are suggesting. "Free", used along with "open", could simply mean you don't have to be an Episcopalian or a member of the church to attend the service. It's probably a poor choice of words, but I don't believe it takes anything away from the message. It does seem strange to mention the St. Margaret's Garden service, since the service won't be held there until Spring/Summer of 2011. I noted no mention of the 8:00 AM service. Was that not listed in the Almanac? If not, that's too bad because it's a nice, short, Rite I service that could appeal to the spiritual needs of a whole lot of people. Especially early risers.

Lionel Deimel said...

Well, I thought the phrasing was very odd.

I hadn’t really noticed the lack of mention of the 8 AM service. Perhaps there was no non-Episcopalian-friendly way of describing it. More likely, that was simply an oversight. Maybe it was thought that readers of The Almanac, for whatever reason, would not be interested in it.