Music Participation

Almost every single Mass has some music. That’s definitely true of weekend Masses at 99% of the parishes in the United States. My parish even sings a bit during daily Mass when we do the Gospel Acclamation (Alleluia) and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) together in song.

When you ask someone what Mass is like at their parish, they most often talk about the music. “Our Choir director is amazing.” or “Our organists can’t carry a tune in a bucket.”

Whether you sing at Mass or not, most everyone has an opinion about the music. Why? I think it’s because music is so personal. It makes us feel things (think of all the love songs or the break-up songs out there), and we all have opinions about our feelings.

So back to music during Mass. This is a hot button issue at most parishes inciting the biggest of fireworks between parishioners, pastors, music directors, and choir members! So instead of writing about the perfect music plan to satisfy everyone at your parish (if only I knew that), I’m going to share three interesting ways parishes are getting people to participate in the music using their weekly bulletins. [Is that the easy way out? YES it is!]

john vianney music bulletin
click the picture to see their latest bulletins

St. John Vianney in Iowa: They have recently revamped their entire music program and parishioners say “It’s the best in all of Iowa!” (I may have made that up, but their parishioners do love the music around this parish!) To increase participation they started showcasing the music in their weekly bulletin. I also love how they have important church related “ads” on the left and right, inviting people into deeper prayer experiences and other spiritual events at the parish.

thomas aquinas bulletin
click the picture to see their latest bulletin

St. Thomas Aquinas in North Carolina: They encourages people to join in by putting all of their music (including page numbers to the hymnal) in the bulletin as well. They also encourage people to join in during the entire psalm alternating with the cantor by singing the verses. Everyone receives a bulletin before Mass and then song numbers and/or names are not announced throughout; there are also short lessons before Mass to introduce new songs/antiphons/Mass parts. A simple way to make sure all in attendance know what’s coming up next.

Finally, I’ve seen many parishes just put the song names and numbers on the first page of the bulletin. It’s an easy way to make sure no one is squinting to see that hymn board and its tiny numbers. It also helps if someone misses the number when it’s announced or if the wrong number happens to be shared (241 instead of 214!).

Rethink how you use your bulletin and how you communicate! All of these contribute to the Hospitality of your parish – and we all want to be “Radically Hospitable”!!

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