Is this church ad over the line or just tacky?

The above ad appeared in the Charleston City Paper, an alternative weekly.

The text:

The Virgin Mary Followed by Bloody Marys

The ad then goes on to list several restaurants in the area (Hominy Grill, Fuel, Cafe Lana, & Five Loaves) along with mentioning Spoleto festival venues are nearby. The ad was placed by The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston, which bills itself as an “Anglo-Catholic Episcopal Church.”

Reactions I heard from various people who saw the ad ranged from “tacky” to “over the line” to “seriously pushing it” to laughter. I heard some say it was “way too hip” or “offensive.”  The ad is obviously an attempt to stay relevant and hip and possibly appeal to a younger target demographic. My first thought upon seeing the ad was that they must be struggling with attendance issues. I really wonder if this ad will be effective. The cuteness factor aside, what does the ad say about the “product” being marketed that would make people want to attend church there?

Some background information on the parish reveals that attendance issues may indeed be why the hipper ad was tried. This church is part of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TEC-SC), which remains a part of the The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Communion. There are 27 parishes listed on TEC-SC’s website along with three communities in formation. TEC-SC consists of the churches that remained in TEC after the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina became the fifth diocese to leave in 2012 and joined the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. The path to this departure included opposition to TEC’s decision to open “any ordained ministry” to individuals in same-sex relationships and a later decision that allowed the blessing of same-sex unions. The Episcopal Diocese of SC lists 55 parishes and missions on its website.

As a result of the events described above, Holy Communion had a priest depart and a significant number of parishioners followed him to the newly-formed Corpus Christi Community, which is an Anglican Use Roman Catholic Community of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. That community meets at St. Mary of the Annunication Catholic Church, which was the first Catholic church in North Carolina, South Carolina, or Georgia when it was established in 1789.

In addition to parishioners departing to become Catholic, Holy Communion lost a significant number parishioners to other Episcopal parishes. In some cases, it may be people who now attend other TEC-SC parishes who don’t like the Anglo-Catholic nature of Holy Communion. However, I’ve heard many who left, for reasons that might also include an aversion to the parish’s Anglo-Catholic nature, have moved on to churches that are in the Diocese of South Carolina.

My personal view is that the ad focuses too much on brunch and not enough on the Gospel. If the restaurants wanted to advertise in the paper or the church bulletin to try to drum up business, this might be one thing they could try. I’m not sure this is the proper ad for a church to run, but I’m sure others will disagree with me.

One other note: neither the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina nor The Episcopal Church in South Carolina includes the whole state. The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina covers the Midlands and the Upstate.

In contrast to that, the Catholic Diocese of Charleston includes the whole state of South Carolina. Some more back story for my friends reading this in Maryland – before the Diocese of Charleston was formed in 1820, the Catholic Church of the Carolinas and Georgia was part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

On another tangentially-related note, Church Marketing Sucks discussed the Episcopal Ad Project of 1979 in a past blog post.

Reprinted with the author’s permission from his blog the Quintonreport.com

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