The United Church of Christ will launch our long awaited national "God is Still Speaking" advertising campaign on December 1. Over 2,000 UCC congregations (out of 6,000) signed up for special training sessions in advance of the campaign. More churches have already signed-up to take part in the second run of ads that will be seen during Lent.
The spot is edgy and has an important theological message. Bouncers are seen in the ad deciding who gets into church and who gets excluded. The scene fades to the message "Jesus didn't turn anyone away and neither does the United Church of Christ." It's a great message that speaks volumes about who the United Church of Christ is.
The Providence Journal ran an article on the campaign today that captures some of the excitement felt by UCC churches about this new venture:
Coming at a time when most mainline Protestant groups have been losing ground to more conservative congregations, many of Rhode Island's Congregationalist (UCC) clergy see the commercials as a way of countering the perception that their time is over, and that those who feel alienated by more conservative church traditions have no choice but run and hide.
"There are so many people who have felt excluded from religious institutions and from their own faith communities," said the Rev. David Proctor, interim minister at the United Church of Christ's Four Corners Community Chapel in Cumberland, where the membership has doubled in five years. "What we are saying to these people is that we are here to welcome you, with all of your questions, your hurts and pains."
The Rev. Ira Williams, associate minister of the Rhode Island conference, said he and many clergy are confident that the $12-million "God is Still Speaking" campaign, starting with the $4-million investment in the bouncers commercial, will make the 1.8-million-member denomination better known.
"They test-marketed the commercials in several localities including Springfield, Massachusetts; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Tampa Bay, Florida; and San Diego, and in those places there was a 27-percent increase in new people coming to church," Mr. Williams said."There was one small, struggling church in Tampa. It was inundated with new visitors after the commercials started."
You can bet that some conservative Christians will take issue with the UCC's campaign. No matter. Taking strong stands is always controversial and this campaign will be no different. What is important is that millions of people will hear a message that Christianity is inclusive and loving. Everyone is welcome at the table. God is still speaking.