Monday, August 29, 2005

CC's church marketing idea

Last night, the Chaliceparents and the CSO and I took the ChaliceRelative out for dinner for her birthday. Conversation, as it often does, turned to my parents' church, a kickass Gothic cathedral right off Dupont Circle in downtown Washington.

The minister is a hippie, and not the cool kind like Edie. He thinks guitar music is just the thing for making a Gothic Cathedral homey.

My mother's big complaint is that the man has little respect for history. (To be fair, this is my mother's complaint about a lot of things.) My mother said that she'd tried to talk to him about doing things in a way in line with the church's history and original mission and he'd blown her off. If the church isn't doing well, then the old methods must not work. So let's rearrange the pews!

CC said "Well, couldn't you try a recruiting campaign more in line with the church's original history?"

The church's origins, which of course can't appear on the website because Pilgrims is too cool for that now, are that there used to be northern Presbyterians and southern Presbyterians, but there was no Southern Presbyterian church in Washington DC. So the Rev. Andrew R. Bird went all over the south, hat in hand, collecting money to build a southern church. (If I sound like I've heard and told this story a million times, it's because I have. I hope they still tell the kids about that.) At Pilgrims, the pews have little plaques saying they were donated by this or that southern presbyterian church. It's way charming, I swear.

When I was a kid, my mother took me around to each stained glass window (they are arranged in classic cathedral style, with the childhood of Jesus on the left up front and going around the church to the crucifixion on the right front. The ascension is at the back of the church, keeping the minister properly inspired) and explained who was in it and what it meant and that Andrew R. Bird's granddaughter died when she was four and the little girl in the blue dress sitting next to Jesus in the children's window is her. I've repeated this tour many times for friends of mine visiting the church.

Anyway, so my suggestion was, we look back to our original mission. We're a church in Washington DC who was put together to minister to pilgrims. My particular hammer when it comes to marketing is direct mail because I write it sometimes for my job.

My idea was to get the presbytery to give us a list of every presbyeterian church in the south. Then, the minister writes a letter to the ministers of those churches, politely saying "If someone from your congregation is moving to DC, tell them about us and give us a call. We'd be happy to help them out in their transition and be a spiritual home for them. Leaving home is scary and ministering to pilgrims is part of our mission" Send said letter out. It will probably cost a few hundred dollars to do and ministers might file such a letter away and keep it for years until little Suzie announced that she'd gotten into Georgetown, at which time the minister might remember it.

The ChaliceMom was THRILLED, saying that was a great idea, it could actually turn up some new members, it was well in line with the church's mission, and was the sort of thing hippie minister should be thinking of.

The ChaliceRelative, who was always one for raining on parades, said she thought it would be awful because to send something like that to the southerners would be reinforcing the denominational divide that the Presbyterians fixed about 1966. ((A fix engineered, by the way, by Dr. Randy Taylor, who might be my mother's hero. A former Pilgrims minister (who married my parents while he was there,) he went on to head the denomination. He came to speak at my college when I was there and I told him about them firing Mary-who-Dances. He didn't intervene, but he did talk to her and talk to some people in the church and try to work things out. Heck of a good guy.)) My impression is that nobody cares about the denominational divide anymore, but the ChaliceRelative clearly does, so I didn't tell her that.

Anyway, the conversation went on with the Chalicerelative arguing that my plan would be in some way racially offensive for a reason I never quite understood. But it was an interesting conversaton.

who was going somewhere with this story, but has now forgotten and has to go to work.

1 comment:

kob said...

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