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Children's Liturgy Book: Remaking a classic

posted Feb 21, 2013, 4:37 AM by Ioannis Moutsatsos   [ updated Mar 17, 2013, 5:54 AM ]
The Orthodox Divine Liturgy has been celebrated for almost two thousand yeas, mostly unchanged. The Divine Liturgy is a central part of an Orthodox Christian's religious identity and experience. A main focus of our Catechetical schools has been to be able to engage our students in the Divine Liturgy in a way that is participatory, spiritual and educational. There are many challenges to this goal stemming from the length (a typical Orthodox Divine Liturgy can last up to 2 hours), language (many of our Orthodox Churches still use their main ethnic language in worship services) and the lack of Divine Liturgy resources targeted towards young children and teenagers. 

Recently, I have attempted to recompile a Divine Liturgy booklet for use in our Catechetical Sunday School at St. Athanasius Greek Orthodox Church in Arlington, MA. We had been using a Divine Liturgy booklet mostly copied from a 1970's publication by the Archdiocese department of Religious Education. This booklet itself had experienced at least two different 'editions' when we went from a photocopied 'cut-pasted' version of it to a scanned PDF.  

The original

The original black and white publication contained both the English and Greek text of the Divine Liturgy and was formatted in a 8x6 soft bound format with a glued spine. The layout of the book was rather good, and was designed to be viewed in a two page spread. The left hand page of each spread contained a black and white illustration  while the right hand side contained the Greek and English texts of the Liturgy in a two column format. The illustrations were clear and instructive and the layout clean and concise. The entire Liturgy including the memorial service fit in just under 50 pages. However, not many copies of the original books remained and the English translation used in the 70's has evolved considerably in the last 40 years of Liturgical life.

A Custom Copy: Edition #1

We assembled a first edition of a Children's Liturgy book by copying the English text of the liturgy from another book and physically 'cutting-pasting' it in place of the original's English translation. All of this was accomplished with paper, scissors and glue stick (pre desktop publishing era). As you can imagine it was functional but not necessarily pretty. The first edition was printed at Staples in a size similar to the original, but due to expense considerations the book was stapled in the center. These books fell apart after a few months of use in the hands of our young students. After discovering a few missing pages (don't ask me how) we abandoned them and went to the second edition of the same material printed and bound in a different format.

A Custom Copy: Edition #2

All 'cut-copied' original pages were scanned and were arranged into a PDF file. We printed the second edition books directly from this file also at Staples. However, this time we used a standard letter format (8.5x11) page size.  Furthermore, we bound these books with a 3/8 standard plastic comb binding. Most of these books lasted in weekly use for almost 3-4 years before we started encountering problems with their binding. The books were 60 pages (30 sheets) long and we had used the recommended size binding comb. However, we noticed that this size book was too large for our students. While using it, they tended to fold it in half so that they could hold it easier. In effect they viewed just a single letter size page (usually the one containing the text) thus missing the accompanying illustrations on the opposing page and also putting unexpected stress on the binding comb. After 6 years of weekly use, now most of the books display considerable 'distress' on the binding comb, with some pages clearly off their binding. It's time for a new printing! Thus we started thinking what improvements we might do this time around.

The 2013 Edition

Observing how our Catechetical School students used their Liturgy books in the past, and incorporating some of the ideas we had seen in other Liturgy books for children, we envisioned a new edition that could be easier to use, more robust in children's hands and more appealing to their tastes. The major new design elements will be explained in a follow-up blog entry.