Introducing Jottle

4 minute read

The Church of England’s liturgical revolution over the last few decades has left every church battling to get everyone singing off the same liturgical page. Common Worship doesn’t exactly make it easy for us: there are myriad options. Twenty years ago, many churches bought copies of the black book, and they sit gathering dust on an out-of-the-way bookshelf.

A picture from Common Worship

It is impossible to use them directly in liturgy. This is a pity, because they are very beautiful indeed: tremendously well laid out. They are easy to follow – once you get rid of all the options that you aren’t using.

This means that every church has to find a way of getting liturgical texts in front of the congregation. Some use projectors and screens, but this doesn’t work for everyone. (Some churches are not suited architecturally, whether in terms of places to attach screens or merely in terms of their being too light! What’s more, screens are a terrible solution for those many in our congregations who have visual impairments.)

Many of us find ourselves producing countless booklets. These are in many ways the best solution, but they are a pain to create. What software do you use for it? Most, I guess, will say Microsoft Word. This works, to a degree, but enforcing consistent formatting is difficult. Word is a very flexible piece of software: it can write an essay, or make a CV, or typeset an pontifical high mass from the throne, but it relies on us controlling the formatting ourselves. Even if we are well organised, this is tricky, and it gets worse if we ever want to change anything.

The General Confession from the Book of Common Prayer

Maybe you use Publisher. If so, my sympathies. This is a truly horrid bit of software. When I had to use it regularly, I would get tremendously angry with it within a few minutes.

Maybe you use a better DTP program, like InDesign (expensive and fairly complicated) or Scribus (free and highly complicated). This is what I have done for many years. They are a decent solution, but they still rely on us getting the formatting right and being absolutely consistent.

(Maybe you use Excel. If so, I don’t think there’s any help that can be offered in this life. May God have mercy on your soul.)

We are human. We are not always good at getting every repetitive detail right. If you are like me, you will find it impossible to proof-read your own work. Computers, by contrast, are very good at doing the same repetitive tasks and getting them right every time.

What we need, therefore, is a way of telling a computer ‘this is a reading, here’s the reference’ or whatever and the computer getting on with it and formatting it right.

Enter Jottle

Jottle aims to do exactly this. There are a limited set of styles available. You can fill them in in a structured way. Then the software knows exactly how to format them to make beautiful, consistent, usable liturgy.

Jottle is run in your web browser. Go to jottle.io and try it out.

Screenshot of Jottle

(The best support is in Chrome. Firefox should also work, and hopefully Edge soon. Internet Explorer will never be supported.)

‘Jottle’ is a contraction of those words from Jesus himself:

Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Mt 5.18)

That means every tiny little detail matters. Every detail of our service books matters, because they are made to assist us in our worship. Jottle takes care of that for us. It is the Martha, who runs around taking care of so many tasks: we can therefore be Mary and choose the better part, sitting and contemplating the words of Jesus.

Getting started

Jottle is loaded with a service that you can edit and play around with. It is the Eucharist for the Birthday of St John the Baptist. Have a play and see what you can come up with! Or start from scratch by clicking ‘new’.

I am already making my service sheets in Jottle. (This is called ‘eating your own dog food’ in software circles!) It works. It makes my work far, far faster.

And, what’s more, it takes all the ugly formatting that the Common Worship website gives us and makes it legible! So why not give Jottle a try…

An extract from the Easter Vigil

My promise

Making a service booklet with Jottle will always be free. After all, I want to help churches to produce beautiful liturgy! Jottle is also built on many pieces of open-source software, especially React and Paged.js.

I intend to make a ‘premium’ service in the future, allowing you to save multiple files, to use template, to insert music notation, to upload files for the front cover, etc. But the ability to take content and make a service sheet will never go away.

Give Jottle a try now!

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