MAD AVE IN THE PULPIT; PITCHING REDEMPTION

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A rchbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications based in Vatican City, is concerned about, among other things, truth and ethics in advertising. His group is taking a long hard look at a number of loathsome things that ad critics have been disparaging for at least a millennium or two. The council will address problems like truth in advertising and whether or not advertising creates false wants and needs. Things as sticky as that.

According to one published report, Archbishop Foley once wrote radio and television commercials and thinks that the Church should learn more about advertising. He feels a great many sermons could benefit by utilizing some of advertising's more advanced presentation techniques. Super idea! Who among us has not spent countless soporific hours in a church pew attempting to follow the thread of a dreary sermon whose message was obfuscated by mindless meanderings and hop-scotching, tangential and irrelevant dribble?

No longer, babe! Once ministers, priests and rabbis adhere to some of advertising's basic philosophies, things are bound to get better. Next time you visit a church or synagogue, you might be faced with a sermon-scenario that goes like this:

"Dearly beloved, we moved our congregation by bus to this much larger auditorium in the McGraw-Hill Building because the audiovisual aids at St. Solomon can't compare to this state-of-the-art equipment available here on Avenue of the Americas.

"Now if my acolyte will please dim the house lights and turn on our multiple carousel projectors, we'll start this multimedia sermon with a thorough review of our credentials.

"We call this slide film `The Who, What, When and Where of St. Solomon.' Let's start with the `who' of St. Solomon. Ladies and gentlemen, the `who' is: We are the leading church, in terms of annual billingsper parishioner, among the entire global churchdom. All, I repeat all, of our church members tithe 15% of their annual income, as is recommended by the ANA.

"Moving right along to the `what' of St. Solomon. What we are is: Internationally we are the largest church in number of new congregations gained in the fiscal year 1993-94. Our member attrition is the lowest in the industry.

"Seguing to the `when' of St. Solomon: We are here 24 hours a day when you need us. Service is our most important service. We have available a 24-hour hot line for you to call. Whatever your most urgent need might be-a quicky marriage, baptism, a bris, annulment or last rites-phone us as we'll react immediately or much sooner. Guaranteed or your money back.

"Finally, the `where' of St. Solomon. Where can you find us? I'll tell you where. Check the Yellow Pages (incidentally, we have a Yellow Pages division as well as a separate public relations and Bible sales promotion department). We have readily accessible church offices in every major market in the U.S. as well as branch offices (some in which we have sizable ownership) in most of Europe, Asia and the Pacific Rim countries.

"Now, moving right along with our presentation, will my altar boy over there with the ponytail please turn on those seven huge television monitors so we can show you the fantastic creative work we have prepared for some of our most satisfied parishioners ..."

Mr. Poppe is chairman emeritus of Poppe Tyson and lives in West Islip, N.Y.

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