Tag Archives: Church of England

Nuking for Jesus: Westminster Abbey ‘to Celebrate the Holy Trident’!

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Resurrecting Brand Anglican: Can Embracing Contemporary Media Save the Church of England? #COFE #FollowTheStar

With the Christmas period fast receding into the distance, it seems entirely apposite to glance back at one of the more intriguing pieces of marketing in the run-up to what has become arguably the greatest target date in the global economy: the Church of England’s 96-second video clip that was the centrepiece of its Follow the Star campaign (‘FTS’, ‘#FollowTheStar’).

According to Adrian Harris – the Head of Digital for the official denomination of state in the United Kingdom’s largest constituent nation – the core concept behind #FollowTheStar was to get more people to attend church. To this end, his organisation’s 2018 Christmas advert follows real-life parishioners in their preparations for and attendance at what one assumes is a semi-fictional Christmas service.

The commercial itself is not the worst out there, although like many of contemporary examples of the genre it suffers from a lack of investment in developing visually compelling characters with truly arresting personalities.

However – after some reflection – we at Mediolana can’t help but wonder if, perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, the basic logic of the ad is somewhat flawed. Understandably – in an era when attendances at Church of England venues are reaching unprecedented depths – the C of E is desperate to funnel warm bodies back into the pews; however, the depiction of a full church as displayed in the marketing spot is not just arguably a tad deceptive, but is setting up the viewer for a big disappointment should they ever follow through on their interest in the ‘service’ being proffered.

Instead, it could be posited that the Church of England should look at the problem from a near-opposite perspective and ask itself the basic question of why it is losing market share in the first place.

This is indubitably a vexed and complex issue, but one thing can be said for certain: any religious denomination whose teachings and general theological direction are virtually indistinguishable to that of mainstream opinion in what is easily one of the more secular societies anywhere on Earth is in serious danger of not differentiating itself enough to be relevant – or even basically interesting – to those of a spiritual bent.

This is a problem which even the tremendous resources and privileges that the Church of England enjoys for historical reasons cannot solve. And until this essential weakness is addressed, the curious spectacle of the established church in the home of the industrial revolution experiencing biological leakage to stronger ‘brands’ such as Buddhism, Islam, and other Christian denominations risks continuing unabated.

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Resurrection, 2.0: Three Strategies to Save a Dying Church of England

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Numbers can sometimes be deceptive, but it is difficult to put a positive spin on the latest official Church of England (‘C of E’) attendance figures: the proportion of the population warming the Anglican pews on a typical Sunday morning now stands at a sobering 1.4%. Even the Church’s preferred set of attendance statistics – those counting attendance at any point during the week (not unlike a video-on-demand service) – has slipped below the one million mark in a country of over 53 million people.

More alarmingly, the trend for anyone who cares about the future of this branch of Christianity is clear: the decline of attendances in the five short years between 2009 and 2014 was no less than 7%. Make no mistake: unless something changes, the Church of England as it is currently constituted is heading for extinction.

So what can be done to arrest the complete annihilation of an organisation which – in sectors as diverse and vital as education and poverty relief – still plays such a key role in the life of the nation? After some contemplation, we at Mediolana can think of three strategies which are ripe for implementation:

  1. Rock-Star Leadership. For many decades now, the Church of England has suffered a chronic leadership deficit. This has not been remedied in more recent times. Rowan Williams (2002-2012) was and remains a gifted theologian and commentator, but his limitations as a communicator – particularly to anyone under the age of fifty – were painfully obvious. The Most Reverend Justin Carey – his indubitably talented replacement as Archbishop of Canterbury – is anonymous beyond the call of duty. The C of E desperately needs a CEO who is not merely personable and charming, but who can convey Christianity’s core spiritual message in an authentic way that can inspire people enough to actively want to connect with their local church instead of their nearest shopping centre.
  2. Women. In a society which risks being characterised by the decisive ascent of de-spiritualised zombies, women remain a constituency who are not completely satisfied with the status quo: they disproportionately populate the self-help sections in bookshops, practice meditation and value the integrity of the (permanently disintegrated?) family unit. The Church of England must undertake a serious initiative to engage with women and their concerns; they might be surprised by what they find.
  3. Multiple Religious Identities. In our increasingly globalised world, Umberto Eco has pointed to a new reality he terms the ‘colouring’ of religion; essentially, the cross-pollination of religious practices. This is particularly evident in cities across Western Europe and Asia: agnostics following the Tibetan Buddhist Dalai Lama and (post-)Christians seeking out halal meat are two such examples of this possibly irreversible trend. The Church of England could become a lead actor in this process by recognising multiple religious identities as a matter of policy: declaring that a person can be simultaneously C of E and, say, Taoist would not just pose a whole new set of interesting theological issues for the established order to grapple with, but it could multiply the potential subscriber base manyfold – and instantly.

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