Saturday, November 21, 2009

This is NOT Your Grandmother's Episcopal Church (but she's welcome, too...)

It's becoming more and more apparent that the institutional church, specifically the powers-that-be in my own beloved Episcopal Church, don't really get it. Their version of a national advertising campaign features the  cutting edge ad (my tongue planted firmly in cheek) to the right of this paragraph:

Contrast that ad, which probably involved hours and hours of conceptual work and much money for both design and publication, with the ad below from Pastor, Priest, and self-proclaimed Art Director Frank Logue, which likely took a few hours or less:

Where do I start? The contrast is stark: word-based vs. image-based, service-based vs. doctrine-based, edgy vs. corporate. I could go on. The last straw for me was the note on the " ad collaborative" page that said that "if you wish to customize it with your own church's address and/or web address, provide the information." So, in an age of desktop publishing, Photoshop, and easy multimedia programs, we're supposed to email information to a central office and have someone else put it into the ad (no doubt at the preselected spot) for us?

Perhaps I'm just a grumpy Generation Xer, but I'm finding more and more of this sort of corporate thinking that simply rubs me the wrong way. Are we a corporate giant that simply puts out the blue and red shield and expects that people will instantly recognize the brand and beat a path to our door, or are we a living, breathing part of the Body of Christ that is active in service to the world and in "working, praying, and giving for the spread of the Kingdom of God" (from the Parochial Report form, no less!)? The USA Today Ad says the former, the ad from Frank says the latter.

Perhaps more scary for me is that, for far too many churches in TEC, this really is my grandmother's church: run from a central office in New York, staid, word-based, corporate. That is not a very attractive church for me. Don't get me wrong--I love the liturgy, the depth, and the spirituality of the Episcopal Church. What I don't love is that the face we too often present to the world is that of a declining church that has beautiful buildings and baubles but not a clue about what those outside our walls are needing, even desperate for, though they may not know it. My frustration is that the church seems to fail repeatedly to take advantage of the technologies and tools available to it to get our message out while simultaneously failing to engage the world that embraces such technologies. There are many, many exceptions (take Holy Apostles in NYC, where the ad picture comes from, for instance) but too often they fly under the radar. Let us (and I'm speaking to myself as well) embrace tools for delivering our message and make sure that it is relevant, faithful to our core values, and able to cut through the maelstrom of information with which we are constantly bombarded. And then let us live that message!

Memo to Episcopal Church Center: If you really want to be helpful, put together a toolkit, complete with submissions of ads like this one, and don't bother spending dollars you don't have on ad agencies or marketing experts. Those were the same folks who brought us the ill-fated "The Episcopal Church: We're here for you..." branding campaign. Give folks the tools, maybe even run an ad contest, and get out of the way.

But that's just my thinking....

1 comment:

Canon Tallis said...

No, she is not and hasn't been for years! Why? Because she was a real Christian for whom the words of Holy Scripture had real meaning and authority. They clearly don't for those in today's Episcopal Church. Instead they are something to be firmly ignored when not so twisted out of their original meaning as to make a person of any intelligence uncomfortable.