The biggest challenge for some is the so-called "juggling"—the delicate balancing act of holding a book and a leaflet and transferring between the two. This whole thing is made all the more complicated due to the fact that we're using the Penitential Order to begin the service, and this warrants more than usual Prayer Book page-flipping.
There are pros and cons for both. The major one has to do with the ever-present specter of "welcome" in Episcopal Parishes.
This is because we first have to define what we mean by "welcome." Does "welcome" mean that a person-off-the-street ought to feel, instantly, like they've been in a place for their entire lives? Or does it mean that one is, literally, welcome to learn what it means to be a member of this community?
If we mean the former, then I suppose a bulletin-only service is not only apropos, but likely the only "real" option. But if we mean the latter, then there's a bit more work to be done.
I often feel that we confuse the terms "inclusion" and "welcome." To be completely honest, I have trouble with the concept of "inclusion." Christianity, by it's very nature, is not all that "inclusive." We very clearly believe that one must accept that Jesus Christ is Lord of all creation, "very God of very God," one who died for us, because of our sinfulness, and rose bodily from the grave in a triumphant act that completely renders sin and death without power—and if one does not accept these revealed truths, then they are not, properly, Christians.*
In contrast, Christians are called to be welcoming. Jesus was welcoming. He ate with sinners and the "wrong" kind of people. He surrounded Himself with all manner of people. And all through that He welcomed them into a life as the people of God's Kingdom. He pointed out their sins and called them to repentance. He welcomed their diseases so that He could cure them.
Now, what does this have to do with our use of The Book of Common Prayer on Sunday mornings?
At a recent diocesan retreat, the consultants that we are working with in our transition with a new bishop, pointed out to us that there are three questions any organization needs to ask: Why? How? and What?
What? is the easiest question to answer. "What do you do?" "We go to church?"
How? is a bit more difficult. "How do you do church?" "We use a traditional liturgy that is punctuated by some contemporary musical forms and our priest often preaches for much longer than we'd prefer."
Why? is the toughest question. Indeed, it is often the last question asked when it ought to be the first. "Why do you go to church?" "Because I want to worship the Lord Jesus."
So, when we ask ourselves about what resource we use for the Sunday morning liturgy, we are obligated to begin with the "why?" question. I can't answer for anyone else, so I'll answer for me:
Why do you use the Book of Common Prayer instead of a bulletin for the service? Well, I do this because I believe that the Book of Common Prayer is important. It is one of the key things that unites us as Episcopalians and I worry that not using it removes us from the tradition into which I am called to serve and into which my congregation is called to worship.
Why do you think this is better for newcomers? I recognize that it is not easy to use the BCP at first. I remember fumbling with mine way back when. But I do believe that, first, it helps set a tone for newcomers (a book seems serious, solid, whereas a bulletin is disposable) and, secondly, it creates its own kind of welcoming action.
How? Ian Markham, the dean of Virginia Theological Seminary, once said that there's a little ritual that happens when parishes use the BCP that cannot be replicated in another capacity: when a newcomer is sitting next to a more established parishioner and that parishioner grabs a Prayer Book, opens it to the requisite page, and hands it to the newcomer. Right there is a little act of welcome. And that goes beyond the greeters and ushers at the door. I mean, they're supposed to welcome a newcomer. But here's a "real" parishioner (as it appears) doing a small act of greeting and welcome. And in my experience I've seen that that person is the one who first gives them the peace and is the one who first chats with the newcomer after the service is over and who invites them to the all-important coffee hour.
Now, I don't think that this is a matter of salvation or whatever and will be fine if we were to make the switch. But I am concerned that we lose something when we don't engage the book itself. And if we're going to use a bulletin, then we need to do more to encourage the use of the Prayer Book in other contexts.
*It's important for me to note that I do not conflate being "Christian" with being "saved." I think that salvation is completely up to the sovereign God that Jesus reveals. For me, Christ's judgment seat is the cross and it was there that He proclaimed forgiveness for all. This does not, for me, negate the existence of "hell," nor does it let people "off the hook." This topic itself will need an entire post (or more) to cover, so for now I just wanted to clarify my terminology above.