The Bishop of Reading, The Rt. Reverend Stephen Cotrell, has been making headlines this week with his marketing-led analysis of the English church-goer. His assertion is that the Church of England needs to move downmarket to shore up its declining customer base – or as he put it:
“How did it come to this, that we have become known as just the Marks & Spencer option when in our heart of hearts we know that Jesus would just as likely be in the queue at ASDA or Aldi?”
I am intrigued by the many implications of this thought. First, that Aldi and Marks and Spencer are mutually exclusive. The current recession is proving that middle class people are just as adept at shopping at discount food retailers as the great unwashed. Second, Jesus may indeed have been found amongst the aisles at Netto, but I also guess He wouldn’t ignore those people who frequent M&S as well. After all, what more of an Everyman statement could He make than to buy His underwear from M&S?
A part of me also thinks that rather than queuing for His Pot Noodles, He might instead be tempted to make His own, maybe updating the loaves-and-fishes model for a modern audience – 5,000 kebabs with chilli sauce from a single pitta, maybe?
Modernisation is, of course, at the heart of the entire argument. The Bishop’s outburst was part of a PR campaign to encourage lapsed believers to give the C of E another try; something else the Church has in common with supermarkets is a recruitment drive in the run-up to Christmas, its busiest trading period. As part of this, “a rap-style radio advertisement” (shudder) has been launched to get the yoof back through church doors, featuring this gem:
"Don't look to make no airs and graces.
Faked up smiles and masked up faces.
No need to make no innovation.
Please accept this as your invitation."
It would seem the use of double negatives is to be a feature of the new ASDA-style Eucharist in an apparent attempt to patronise their new audience to within an inch of their lives. How very middle class. How very M&S.
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