Episcopal plates

The Diocese of Delaware is driving off into a new evangelism field...

For $15, Delaware residents can get a vanity Episcopal license plate.

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Elizabeth Kaeton includes a picture of her car and writes that one should then be ready to talk with strangers:

I love the interest shown by neighbors and random folks in the parking lot at the grocery store - or post office or retail outlet or gas station - who ask questions. Which is the point, right? I've only had the license plate since Saturday and already I'm finding myself in conversations with people about my church and my faith....

If you like the idea of talking to total strangers about The Episcopal Church or issues of your faith, then I hope you'll agree with me that this is a wonderful idea and a great opportunity.

However, if you don't like the idea of talking to total strangers about The Episcopal Church or issues of your faith, then, as we used to say in North Jersey, "Fuggeddaboutit".

Just don't complain to me about evangelism and how we need it desperately and no one is doing it and the church is "hemorrhaging members" and will soon die.

Of course, you don't need a license plate to do evangelism, but I can tell you from personal experience that it's a great conversation starter. I also love thinking about the conversations some people have in their car as they follow behind me on the road and see my license plate.

Comments (11)

I'd love to know if there are other dioceses with their own distinctive license plates. What's been your experience?

Maria says you can do this in Missouri if you have $5000 and guarantee 200 plate purchases.

I understand that the Diocese of Easton and Maryland also have this project. Any others?

(In Missouri, don't forget, "and get a member of the state legislature to sponsor the plate.")

Don't forget to "drive friendly" (as they say in TX) when you've got the special plates, though. I'm always bemused by drivers sporting Icthus stickers and such speeding, cutting people off, etc. (you shouldn't drive like a jackass w/o the plates, either).

I wondering if these plates send the wrong message.

Without trying to be judgmental, there is a reason they're called vanity plates afterall.

Is this message people we hear: we're still the church of the moneyed class with a nice car and cash to blow on a plate, that says welcome to The Episcopal Church but doesn't make you feel welcomed if you don't look like us, dress like us and don't come from the right neighborhood?

I don't see the plates as evangelism.

John: I see what your saying, but don't necessarily agree. Perhaps the reaction might depend on the state...

Edmunds.com says that "Nationwide, vanity plates can cost anywhere from $10 to $65 per year, depending on the state. California (for example) calls them "environmental plates," because it uses the revenue to fund programs that preserve and protect the environment, such as the purchase of land for preserves, studies of endangered species and public education."

I tend to think that most people seeing these plates would think "this must be important to the person driving that car...why else would they take the time, effort, and money to get this", rather than the message you suggest. But I could be wrong...

(Perhaps the perceived value of the car might change the understood message as well. Would someone have a different reaction to 20K car with the Episcopal plates rather than a 120K car with the same plates? Maybe: I'd guess more people might lean to your message considering the more expensive car.)

But I also get the sense that the real opportunity for "evangelism" comes not so much by the perceived message of the plates then by entering the conversation someone begins by referring to your plates (which stand out because they are different).

The problem I see is that who knows what the shield stands for except other Episcopalians - it is not widely recognized nor the EC -- the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware is so tiny I doubt people can read it even when stopped behind the car. so it is not much of an evangelism tool but a way for insiders to recognize each other.

My parish has a stack of bumper stickers with the churches name and address on them in the parish hall for any member who wants one. Probably a bit cheaper than a license plate.

To clear up a few things: In Delaware organizations can apply to have these types of license plates. Universities, fraternal organizations, churches, etc., can get them for the members of their organization. Unlike vanity plates where a person can creatively put a message on their plate that personalizes to them (LOOKATME) these organizational plates are simply numbered from 1 to 9999. If there is any vanity it is in trying to get a number that is personally meaningful. I was able to get 1714, which was the year my parish was established. When I leave I plan to offer it to my successor.

And the exhorbitant cost for these plates? A one-time fee of $15, hardly reserved for the well-to-do. The members of my congregation who purchased them were excited to get them and put them on their cars, and it made my heart glad that they were willing, in a very public way, to "put themselves out there". And as they say in north Jersey where I grew up, "You got a problem with that?"

Delaware's next-door diocese, the Diocese of Easton, has offered similar plates for at least ten years. In this state they are called "organization" plates and are available only to motorists who are members of the organization the plates advertise. Vanity plates are an entirely different matter.
The cost in Maryland is $26, 25 for the DMV and a dollar to the Diocese of Easton for the cost of postage. Maryland Episcopalians can get information about the EC plates from the diocesan office in Easton. eMail Ruth@dioceseofeaston.org.

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