Paige Blair, 35, speaks frankly in a new 30-second ad inviting television viewers to visit the Episcopal Church.
"We live in very complicated times. There's war, poverty, famine ... We build more jails and fewer schools and there's never enough money to pay the bills. For me, church provides some solace and perspectives that help me understand, reconcile and forgive.
"I don't think church gets everything right," Blair says, over scenes of her walking her dogs and gardening. "We are only human."
Then, in a surprise "reveal" statement, Blair continues: "I go because if I didn't, people would ask me why. After all, I am the priest of this parish."
On-screen text then identifies Blair as rector of St. George's Church in York Harbor, Maine -- a post she has held since 2000.
"The commercial sparks an 'aha moment' for many viewers, and especially among the market research groups in which the spot was tested," said Mike Collins, director of broadcast and multimedia communication at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.
"The ad creates an important point of peer identification for the target audience of Gen X women," said Collins, who at age 34 is himself part of "Generation X," and who oversaw production of the ad created by the Partners and Simons agency of Boston.
The ad is scheduled to air nationally beginning April 30, with placement coordinated through Time Warner Cable. An added funding initiative seeks to keep the ad on the air through this June's meeting of the Episcopal Church's General Convention in Columbus, Ohio.
"We're looking to double our first buy of $100,000 in airtime," said Collins, who is launching the project with funding allocated by General Convention in 2003.
Women's groups in the church might especially consider sharing in fundraising, Kalamazoo cathedral dean Cynthia Black recently told Executive Council's Congregations in Ministry Committee, which she chairs.
Congregations and dioceses wishing to place the ad in local markets are asked to contact the Episcopal Media Center in Atlanta by phoning toll free 800-229-3788.
Groups and individuals can preview the ad starting March 21 and make online gifts for air-time by visiting www.comeandgrow.org, the Episcopal Church's visitors' web site.
The web site -- which provides a helpful introduction to the church -- is cited as the new ad concludes with the invitation, "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You: Come and Grow." The same theme has been chosen for this summer's meeting of the General Convention.
"Part of the flexibility of this new ad concept is that it can be adapted in other geographic contexts across the church," said Canon Robert Williams, director of the Episcopal Church Center's Office of Communication, which oversees the denomination's churchwide advertising program.
"Our strategic plan calls for replication of this ad in at least two other diverse regions -- and in Spanish -- for airtime in Spring 2007," Williams said. "The only caveat is that each priest featured in the new ads must be of Gen-X age and the actual rector or vicar of the congregation to be featured. This authenticity is important to the message," he added.
Nominations can be forwarded to Collins or Williams, who said the new Spring ad will also be complemented by a print ad, set to debut in early April.
The Spring ads will be followed later this year by "back-to-school" television ads in English and Spanish, repeating the successful "Monitors" spots launched in 2005, Williams said. He added that the now-annual Thanksgiving season ads are also scheduled to repeat this Fall on CNN Headline News, Airport Channel, and in USAToday.
The year-round advertising work is also supported by the Lenten "Groundwork" study series aimed at increasing parish-based evangelism and hospitality. Now in its second year, Groundwork is available in English and Spanish online at www.episcopalchurch.org/groundwork. Led again by Director of Mission James Lemler, a third component for use in Lent 2007 and Liturgical Year C will be published this Fall.
"We've been able to accomplish a considerable amount with $250,000 per year this past triennium," Williams said. "Excellent partnerships have been built with dioceses across the church, and we look forward to even wider collaboration as we move ahead in this important area of evangelism and mission."