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08.30.2008

Church Attendance Down? Try Installing a Wine Bar.

At one point in the glorified history of Western civilization, people were beaten or berated if they failed to show up for religious services. You didn't simply put money in the collection box, it was taken from you. But we're in the 21st century, and the church must rely less on force and more on marketing if it wants to hold onto its market share in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

In a move that may have been inspired by scripture itself ("Wine was created from the beginning to make men joyful, and not to make men drunk. Wine drunk with moderation is the joy of soul and the heart. Ecclesiastes 10:19") The Church of England recently suggested that there might be a very easy way to get people to visit one of its cathedrals more often: install a wine bar.

Of course, this wasn't some stuffy bishop suggesting that a glass of Chardonnay under the light of stained glass windows might be good for the soul. Rather, this was the "director of hospitality and welcome," whose job, it seems, is to "rejuvenate a the brand" of the Church, which has seen a gradually dwindling stream of visitors to its Cathedral in Birmingham.

I'm all for this sort of approach. The world would be a better place if we all sat down and had a glass of wine with each other more often, and I can think of a lot worse places to do it than some of England's beautiful cathedrals.

In fact, this could be a whole new frontier for converting England's beer drinkers into faithful followers of the grape. France, with its dismally dropping population of younger wine drinkers would be wise to consider such a move as well. Even the Catholic church could find an angle in here, and the the process they could significantly increase the quality of that communion wine.

Presumably there will be some limit to the amount of drinking one can do in such an establishment, however. Dancing on the pews does not seem like it would go over very well.
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Comments (8)

Jennifer BB wrote:
08.31.08 at 2:16 PM

Now why didn't I think of this? As a priest in the Episcopal Church (the daughter church of the Church of England) I think there are folks who would love this. We already take parishioners to the vineyard tasting rooms around the Finger Lakes Wine country--having tastings closer to home makes some sense.

Dylan wrote:
08.31.08 at 3:34 PM

That's really great to see.

Attendance has become such a problem that there's an entire market for it. Just the other day I came across an advertising agency that dealt with the rebranding of Church's. Of course, their challenge is more from the messaging point. This article suggests an internal effort which is the other half of the battle. I hope to see more churches in America consider this. It looks as though Jennifer BB is ready to get it going. I'm happy to see that.

08.31.08 at 5:45 PM

Well, I love the idea of bringing spirits to the spiritual. First it was music to bring people into the church, now the community-building spirit of wine. So, should we bring spirituality to our wine bars, or just the religion of the grape?

Anonymous wrote:
08.31.08 at 10:19 PM

If they let you worship Dionysis...well, then they would have to let you dance.

Chris Giammona wrote:
09.02.08 at 8:10 AM

Not sure what Bible you are reading, but mine only has 12 chapters in Ecclesiastes!

In a move that may have been inspired by scripture itself ("Wine was created from the beginning to make men joyful, and not to make men drunk. Wine drunk with moderation is the joy of soul and the heart. Ecclesiastes 31:35-36")

Chris

Rich wrote:
09.02.08 at 9:49 AM

In the past year, our church started taking a donation of wine for services each month and publicizing the donor in their bulletin. Since then, the quality of the wine served has improved a great deal. You are on to something in this post!!!

Alder wrote:
09.02.08 at 3:44 PM

Chris,

Indeed you're right. The internet steered me wrong. Looks like it's Ecclesiastes 10:19.

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