Tuesday, November 15, 2005

An American Priest in Lundwood

What do you get when you mix an American Vicar, a Yorky mining town, a marketing firm and a camera crew? The BBC's new reality tv show, Priest Idol.

Christianity Today has a great interview with James McCaskill about the experience.

And what do you know, Willow even pops up in the conversation:
The filmmakers brought in a marketing firm to help you sell the church to the town. Was this a positive experience?

It really was. The marketers—a firm called Propaganda—were very respectful and sensitive. They brought a fresh perspective from the world. I don't think it was selling out to the world. I think it was a way of learning what is going on in the culture, what does the immediate society want, how do they view church? I don't know the story very well, but I wonder if Bill Hybels used a similar approach when he went knocking on the doors around Willow Creek, asking what folks would like to see in a church. The most positive thing this did was to raise the profile of the parish in the community, to say, "We're here and open and alive."

What would you say to those who argue that the church does not need to market itself?

I would say that we did not take a secular approach and put the label 'Christian' on it and therefore redeem it. What I would say is that we used a tool available in Western society and used it in such a way to produce something that is worthy of the church. For instance, the marketers challenged us to say, "What is special about the Christian faith?" It was a challenge for us to articulate it; in fact, the congregation was not able to articulate it. By taking a sales point of view and asking, "How are you are you going sell this place, if you can't tell people what's great about it?" the marketers weren't asking us to make things up; they were asking us to genuinely examine ourselves. It sounds pathetic that the congregation was not able to articulate those things already—this is our faith we're talking about, after all—but obviously it wasn't happening.

What do you think the airing of Priest Idol can accomplish?

It tells a really positive story about our particular church and about the church in general. That was one of the concerns of the bishop. He thought that if this was a success, it would be a success not just for Lundwood, but for the Christian church in the UK. It shows hope, it shows excitement, it shows people rallying around a church. It shows a church willing to take risks. It raises a lot of issues for churches to think about how, why, and to what extent they can reconnect with their communities.

Sounds like fascinating TV, maybe it will make its way across the big pond some day!


Steph Stanger said...

that is pretty cool Kim, I would really like to see it. how do you find all of these intersting things? Speaking of interesting....what do you think the "other" fello meant when he said they were not on the list because they were not "good" ...sooo strange!

Kim Traynor said...

Found this one at Thunderstruck (see sidebar).

About Lost, that was pretty interesting. Anna Lucia is pretty hardcore. I'm so glad they brought on Michelle Rodriquez!