I was once part of a lovely Scottish congregation, where each Sunday the minister would come to the announcements, the news. Except that in his lovely, gentle, Morningside accent he called them ‘The Intimations.’ Which might have been about the cake sale, but to me sounded like the spot for authorised gossip: ‘Last Tuesday, Mrs McPherson was seen coming out of the grocers with two packs of Tunnocks tea cakes.’ Tsk, tsk. Meaningful glances around the kirk.
Joking aside, we all do it, every Sunday. At some point, we stand up, welcome everyone, and then give a few announcements about what’s going on.
Why? Because there’s a huge risk: if you’re remotely sensitive to the ‘flow’ of the meeting, you’ll be aware that all too often it can pop the balloon. Prayerfulness, adoration, attentive listening to God’s Word all screech to a halt to allow for an ad break. In a culture where we are advertised to all the time, and have learnt not to listen. You can see it on the faces.
Sometimes we have no choice, of course. I work in a denomination where a few such notices are legally required: announcing marriages, the annual meeting and so on. Those have to happen.
But if I’m not careful, I get myself into a grumpy place about the cascade of information. At which point I need to preach myself a sermon, because I do think announcements , family news, call it what-you-will, should perform several important biblical roles.
Announcements remind us that we are family. This isn’t being a like a supermarket, pushing a two-for-one deal; it’s being like the family at Sunday lunch, sharing about what’s happened and what’s coming up. It’s about connecting, lining up, knowing what we are all up to. It’s about love.
Announcements remind us that we are united. In the church I serve, we have four congregations. Just occasionally we will have a piece of news specific to one or two of them, but most usually, we have something to say across all four. That ties our quiet, formal, Prayer Book congregation with our loud, informal one. It’s a battle we never win, but always have to fight for.
Announcements remind us that we are fellowship. . And here’s the ‘why’. The purpose of the announcements is to enable us to function as a fellowship, as the Body of Christ.; It helps us to know how and why to pray, to serve, to give.
Now there are other ways to communicate of course, and we’ll look at those, but for the moment let’s stay with the fact that saying something to everyone, while we’re all in the room together, is a powerful and meaningful thing to do. It tells us all, ‘this thing is really important to us as a church.’
So here’s the first question: when someone comes up to you five minutes before the service with a small note, asking if you can announce it up front, the very first question you have to ask yourself is, ‘Will announcing this today promote fellowship in our church?’
In my experience, the answer is usually a negative one, and we’ll come back to the reasons for that in the next few posts. Just occasionally you’ll want or need to do it, because it meets that biblical need.
But for the moment, give yourself this test about what you’re announcing this Sunday: can you pray about it, immediately after announcing it? Because if you know what you’re praying for, you’ll know why you’re announcing it.