From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

Any Church?

In my newspaper this morning was the flier I’d been hearing about. It’s a joint ad, from various local churches, meant to encourage people to attend a church this Easter: “This Easter, the churches of your city invite you to Pick A Church Any Church”. Above this headline is a photo of a checklist of various denominational names, with the caption “There is NO wrong answer to the question”. At the bottom of the ad is the web address

I’m glad local churches are reaching out to invite people. That’s good. But I have wonderments and thoughts:

  • the ad clearly implies that the differences between denominations (Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Nondenom, etc.) don’t really matter. Would any of the participating denominations really man that?  Sola Gratia doesn’t matter? Papal infallibility doesn’t matter? Congregational polity doesn’t matter? Social engagement doesn’t matter? Welcoming hospitality and openness doesn’t matter? If it matters, then isn’t advertising that “There is NO wrong answer to the question (of which church to attend)” kinda like bait and switch? Or, is this really a reflection of an uncomfortable fact – most folks in the pew of mainline churches don’t know and, frankly my dear, don’t care what makes them distinct from any other Christian body?
  • the ad is reminiscent of an earlier theme in church advertising – “Worship at the church of your choice this Sunday”. As I recall, though, that wasn’t so much a church ad campaign as it was a secular “public service announcement” thing. That was back in the day when the secular society saw the church as something to buttress the status quo, rather than to question the status quo. So what church you went to didn’t matter, just go to the church of your choice – any church will do.
  • Becoming part of a church community is a process and takes a while. So, like dating, you have to start with a whole lot that you don’t know but will learn. Still, would we want to say “Pick a spouse, any spouse”?

One response

  1. Eric R.

    Are you in Collinsville or one of the other two cities involved in the campaign? I only ask because I was doing my vicarage (Lutheran for “internship,” in case you’re unfamiliar with the term) at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) in Collinsville last year, when the campaign first started. As a temporary/probationary member, I was allowed to give my input, but I was not allowed to vote at the meetings, and Pastors Walther and Hemenway, both of whom would have resisted the decision to give that name to the campaign, were unable to attend the meeting at which that decision was made.

    As for the flier, while the design was not the best, it beat the daylights out of the other two original ideas. The first was a carnival wheel with each slot representing a denomination — as though a decision that important should be left to chance! The second idea, only slightly better, was like a Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors of ice cream idea. That one was shot down before they could even begin to elaborate on it.

    You’re right, denominational distinctives matter a lot. Unfortunately, though, because of a couple key absences at a key meeting, the litmus test for that campaign was the question “Do you believe in Jesus?”

    Pax Christi,

    May 4, 2010 at 8:46 am

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