It seems that my church, The Episcopal Church, is in a position similar to that of the Chicago fraternities. There are many denominations vying for attention. Many people have a hard time distinguishing one from another, and others are indifferent to the whole lot. I don’t think that we have been successful, either locally or nationally, at promoting our church.
And yet, I believe The Episcopal Church has much to offer. I admit that it is not for everyone, but I think it is the perfect Christian church for some folks, including some who aren’t looking for a church at all. On the other hand, if someone finds a comfortable spiritual home in, say, a Southern Baptist church, both God and I can rejoice.
Maybe The Episcopal Church could learn from the recruiting strategies of the Chicago Chapter of Alpha Delta Phi in the mid-60s. The chapter had not been too successful at attracting new brothers, and it was thought that only by trying something completely different could a seemingly inevitable decline be averted. Hence, the campaign that lured me in.
Does that situation sound familiar? Perhaps we can raise the profile of The Episcopal Church and draw in new people for whom our church is an attractive spiritual home, even if they are not actively looking for such a home.
With this thought in mind, I constructed some proposed Episcopal Church advertisements that highlight what I believe are some of our church’s special strengths. I worded these with the intention of contrasting with the “Christian” positions often seen in the mainstream media. I tried to be intriguing in the same way that Alpha Delta Phi advertising was intriguing when I was a Chicago undergraduate.
What you find below is my third set of advertisements. Episcopal friends on Facebook have my sincere thanks for helping me eliminate ill-conceived items and improve those that survived the bad-idea filter. I had intended to include additional advertisements involving liturgy and music, but my attempts resulted in arcane text or text of questionable generality. Readers are invited to help me out, on these or existing topics.
Until now, my advertising project has essentially been academic. However, I would be delighted if churches actually used what I have produced. I am even willing to customize advertisements for individual churches, substituting, for example, “St. Swithin’s in the Swamp Episcopal Church” for “The Episcopal Church.” If you’re interested in using these advertisements, please contact me (see contact link in the sidebar at the right).
Sixteen proposed advertisements follow. Click on any one for a larger version.
- This is one of my favorites. The Episcopal Church has avoided developing confessions of faith, remaining content with the most ancient ones.
- This combines a notion popularized by former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning and the familiar “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” sign. One hopes that it is true of most congregations.
- This is meant to contrast The Episcopal Church with those churches that read the Bible literally or believe it to be inerrant.
- Some seem to think Episcopalians don’t really pay attention to the Bible. I originally asserted that we read four Bible passages at each service, but this is not technically true. Hence, what follows.
- This idea is taken from Robin Williams, though I don’t know that he was the first to articulate it.
- Too many Christians, of course, show up in church only on Christmas (or Christmas Eve) and Easter.
- It is easy to get the impression that the “Christian” doctrine on homosexuality is that it is a sin and that homosexuals and should not be ordained by the church. This is not the position of The Episcopal Church, which welcomes LGBT people, ordains, and marries them. (See also #16.)
- Many Christians are obsessed with getting to heaven once they’re dead. Most Episcopalians aren’t too sure about what happens when we die, but they know that we have a mission to pursue before we die. This is another of my favorites.
- Unlike some Christian churches, The Episcopal Church has no problem with science. You can accept evolution with a clear conscience.
- Episcopalians don’t claim to have all the answers. Maybe some us do, but, on the whole, we are modest about what we know. The suffering caused over the years by differences of opinion on religious issues that cannot be definitively resolved or that ultimately don’t matter is appalling.
- Not every Christian needs to be an Episcopalian, which is something of an acquired taste. We can even respect non-Christian religions. (See #10.)
- I was very impressed with James Adams’ book So You Think You’re Not Religious. Adams argued that church rituals such as baptism and marriage can celebrate life’s milestones even in the absence of real faith. In any case, The Episcopal Church does a good job with these rituals.
- The most important ritual of the church is probably the Eucharist. The idea for this advertisement came from Eucharistic Prayer C. See my hymn, “Holy Eucharist,” and related commentary.
- This was inspired by the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the fact that we are admonished to love our neighbors as ourselves.
- How can we require uniformity of belief if we acknowledge that we don’t know everything? (See #10.) We can still work on building the Kingdom of God. (See #8.)
- The Episcopal Church had gay and lesbian clergy before we began performing same-sex marriages. It took us a long time to get where we are, but we’re glad we made it.
Update, 7/25/2016. In the comments below, readers suggested additional copy for advertisements, and, in my own comments, I included links to ads using those suggestions. To make those ads easier to find, I have also put them in a separate post, “Three More Episcopal Church Advertisements.”