Admen for Heaven
"Opening up minds is the first step to regular church attendance, Episcopal Ad Project says"
July 1, 2001
(This article originally appeared in the September 18, 1987, issue of Christianity Today.)
George Martin's office—the office of Saints Martha and Mary Episcopal Church—is in the basement of a funeral home. Public-school gymnasiums, library auditoriums, and all the other public meeting spaces in Eagan, Minnesota, have been taken by other church-planting efforts. Thus every Sunday, in one of the funeral home's parlors, Martin erects a portable screen on which to hang a cross and a banner in order to help the brand-new 90-member congregation feel as if it has gone to church.
In addition to his job as vicar, Martin is also executive director of the Episcopal Ad Project, a high-quality, but low-budget, effort to get the attention of the unchurched. Appropriately, in a recent ad, the vicar of this funeral-home church appeared as one of a half-dozen pall bearers carrying a casket. The headline reads, "Will it take six strong men to bring you back into the church?" The fine print explains that the church "welcomes you no matter what condition you're in, but we'd really prefer to see you breathing."
Tom McElligott's office—the office of the ad agency that produces Martin's church ads—is in downtown Minneapolis, 18 miles from Martin's mortuary meeting space. The Fallon McElligott agency occupies the fifteenth and sixteenth floors of the blue steel-and-glass 701 building. There the grey-carpeted hallways and the reserved grey, upholstered walls are punctuated by the eye-popping work that has brought the agency national recognition. Ads for Bloomingdale's, the Wall Street Journal, and Lee jeans are mixed in with the more socially conscious pro bono work they have done for the Children's Defense Fund and the Episcopal Ad Project.