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What can the church learn from these Apple ads?

What can the church learn from these Apple ads?

I saw the first of these two Apple ads before a movie this weekend and thought immediately that Apple is thinking about the experience of the people whom it is trying to engage and the nature of the relationship it wants to have with those people in ways that might be useful for the church to consider.

I’m not suggesting that faith is a product, or that in joining a church you become a “customer.” I am not arguing the morality of Apple as a corporation or the usefulness of adapting secular marketing techniques for the purposes of evangelism (although there is a strong if qualified case to be made there.) But watch these ads, especially the first one, and tell me that Apple doesn’t have some extremely well developed ideas about who its audience is, what values that audience equates with Apple products, and what sort of emotional experience that audience is looking for in making Apple a part of its life.

Notice that in some ways, these values and emotional experiences overlap with the values we espouse as a church.

What can the church learn from this? What would the Episcopal Church’s version, or your parish’s version of these ads look like?

(If news doesn’t break today, I’m going to let this item run longer than usual so we can focus our conversation on it.)


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Rhonda Muir

Harriet, you seem to be focusing on the form through which high church parishes worship. I agree that it absolutely appeals to and stimulates the spiritual experience of some people. But another aspect of TEC is the theological focus on the gospel message of love over and above the epistle message of conformity to a standard of behavior. (The Episcopal Church Welcomes You) A bible scholar recently pointed out to me this difference in emphasis among different protestant denominations and traditions. And there is yet a 3rd aspect of the TEC that stands out that we inherit from Elizabeth…..which is the active use of our individual independent conscience’s in divining what is right to do. So, our “BRAND” may be multi-part, one aspects appealing to one group, another aspect, to a different group.

Harriet Baber

Kk. One last shot. I don’t know enough about parishes in Indian reservations. Re Evangelical megachurches, the Episcopal Church can’t compete effectively in this market. I hate quoting Dr. Johnson’s sexist remark comparing women preachers to dogs walking on their hind legs–“It is not done well, Sir: but you are surprised that it’s done at all!”

Johnson was of course wrong about women preachers. And if the TEC serves small parishes on Indian reservations, that’s great. But TEC does provide something unique, that other churches don’t provide–that fancy stuff for effete snobs. This is the characteristic Episcopal brand! If the Episcopal Church doesn’t provide it no one else will. It’s unique: there is no place else as far as I know where you can get this liturgical supernaturalism without the socially conservative agenda promoted by other liturgical churches.

Urban Anglo-Catholic music shrines like St. Thomas and Christ Church New Haven aren’t “niche” places within the Episcopal Church: they are what the Episcopal Church is as a niche. What they offer is valuable, worthwhile. No one is excluded. If you like it, it’s yours.

Just don’t take it away. What we’re saying is, don’t invest in those faux-evangelical churches to the exclusion of the AC music shrines. Where else are we going to to get that fancy stuff? This is the Episcopal Church’s mission–to speak to people like us, to provide that aestheticism. Live with it!

I am absolutely committed to evangelism–that’s why I post here. I don’t care what other people have–as ling as I, and other people who share tastes can get the style of religiousity we enjoy. Just please, please, please recognize that effete snobs need religion too!

Jonathan Galliher

You could replace Apple with pretty much any other computer company in those ads, and my response to them would be pretty much the same. The ads are lovely, but the company is over-promising a bit, and their competitors aren’t significantly better or worse at delivering the pieces that can be delivered.

For TEC, the point I’d worry about with almost any ad is our ability to actually deliver regardless of the parish the viewers showed up at, since we have such a tremendous range of liturgical flavors, musical offerings, and preferred types of activity, and that’s just at the basically healthy parishes. There are also plenty of parishes that aren’t healthy. If places like St. Thomas or Christ Church, New Haven, are the standard, then how do we explain the evangelical mega-churchy parishes in Texas, Florida, and other parts of the Old South? And what about the small parishes on Indian reservations, or similarly small parishes in non-First nations, rural Idaho or Wyoming? I don’t see niche places like St. Thomas or St. Gregory of Nyssa as being examples of the Episcopalian brand, it’s more like they have their own brands of which being Episcopalian is only a part.

By the by, what exactly is moralistic about insisting that, if we’re going to try to sell happiness, we actually listen to the available empirical guidance? We’re the Episcopal Church, we’re supposed to listen to scientists’ conclusions within their area of expertise, not act like the Fundamentalists who reject every bit of science they don’t like.

Frank Logue

Scott Petersen, thanks for the EpiscoNinja shout out. A very different video, a social media response to an earlier Episcopal one. Thanks for thinking of it.

Frank Logue


It has been an interesting string. What I have been wondering about is to wonder what “TEC Welcomes You” means? What are people being welcomed too? If someone does not know what we are as a denomination and/ or does not even know what a church is, why is being welcomed a value? What is key in the apple ads is the demonstration of their value. They make certain claims and then in their ad demonstrate those claims through images of children learning, video at dinner etc, etc. In a culture awash in branding there is the need to demonstrate your value. In a phrase we might do better by pronouncing less and becoming apologists.

As I see it, TEC Welcomes You assumes that the recipient of the message understands the TEC to be a value. I don’t think that is something we can assume. It may have been something we could assume before. I don’t think it is wise to assume it now. It is something that needs to be demonstrated.

Frank Logue’s EpiscoNinja’s is a good example of media which does not assume we are a value unto ourselves. It allows a viewer to discover at least one angle as to why an individual might leave a warm bed on a sunday morning and join us. I don’t believe the following to be the answer… the next TEC media device but a vehicle which demonstrates value… transmits it… so that those viewing it might want to be a part of TEC. To view please see:

[Editor’s note: Thanks for the comment. Please leave your name next time.]

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