Monday, November 29, 2004

Advent Basics: Getting Back to Liturgical Essentials

De-Clutter your church to let its primary purpose shine through


Clean up the vestibule area of your church.
Remove old flyers, bulletins, and pamphlets. Organize the area so that the first thing people feel when they walk in is welcome. The primary purpose of this area is for gathering and welcoming people. Make sure there is enough room for this purpose. Move extraneous things like tables of books and leaflets away from gathering and walking spaces to another area where people can browse and learn more about the community through pictures and announcements. Organize these materials neatly.

Clean up the choir area.
Avoid storing books and equipment here because the primary purpose of this area is first of all worship. Even if the choir is in the loft where no one can see them, the place where the choir exercises its ministry should look like a place that enables reverent worship. It’s hard for choir members to genuinely pray at Mass if the place where they pray looks more like a storage area.

Clean up the sanctuary area.
The primary purpose of the sanctuary area is for the presidency of the assembly’s worship, the proclamation of God’s Word, and the celebration of the Eucharist. Therefore, the primary objects that should be prominent in this area are the altar, the ambo, and the presider’s chair. Everything else is secondary. Remove extraneous tables and chairs. Put only the altar cloth, corporal, bread and wine, and Sacramentary on the altar. Do not put water glasses for the presider, papers with Mass announcements or intentions, candles or flowers, or envelopes with Mass stipends or prayers on the altar. If the presider needs water, use a side table. Mass announcements or intentions should be in the bulletin or in the presider’s or commentator’s binder. Candles and flowers should be freestanding, placed away from the altar so that the celebrant, deacon, and other ministers can easily prepare the cups and plates for Communion without twisting around candle and flower stands. Also, be careful that the placement of decorations does not act as an altar rail, dividing the “holy space” from the “not holy space.” Envelopes with Mass intentions are seen most visibly during November when the dead are remembered. It is good to remember the dead, but do not place these envelopes, no matter how nicely decorated with ribbon, on top of the altar. This looks too much like our medieval practice of purchasing indulgences. If you want to display these envelopes, put them with the Book of the Dead, or at the baptismal font, on in the shrine of your parish patron saint.

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