A few months back, “church geek” that I am, I was perusing through some parish newsletters from around the diocese when I came across an article mentioning a book titled, The Ultimate Quest: A Geek’s Guide to (The Episcopal) Church. (h/t to the Rev. Christopher Richardson at St. Mark’s, Columbus) With this issue focusing on pop culture approaching, I thought this might be a good book to check out.
The basic premise of the book, at least according to the title, is to introduce the Episcopal Church to those who consider themselves a part of “geek culture,” or in this case the enthusiasts obsessed with the adventure, fantasy and gaming world. The author makes a case that elements of the Episcopal tradition match up well with those of that culture; vestments = cosplay, orders of ministry = classes, General Convention = Comic Con. And our whole list of rules (Book of Common Prayer) is akin to the player’s guide in Dungeons and Dragons.
Now while I’ll admit to playing a little D&D in college, I don’t really consider myself a part of the gaming culture, so it would be easy for me to dismiss this book as irreverent or kitschy. But as I read on, I found some really great explanations of elements of our tradition in easy to read, everyday language. Overall, I was quite impressed that the author used this element of popular culture to draw in potential churchgoers from a particular subset of the population, and then delivered the goods.
So there is a lesson to be learned here. How can we, using familiar language and notions of our popular culture, introduce the Episcopal Church to people we are sure would find it fulfilling if they just knew about it? Or maybe not just the Episcopal Church, but simply the love of God, if we take our responsibility for the Great Commission seriously. How can we deliver the goods?
Musicians have utilized the popular culture for years to draw attention to causes they support. Create a narrative about whatever topic you want to highlight, write a catchy tune to go along with it, and suddenly everyone is aware of and sending money to support the plight of farmers. Or poverty in Africa, or hurricane relief. You get the point.
Those who have delved into the Fresh Expressions movement of the church understand this. Bringing people into relationship with God takes going out and meeting people where they are, and not dismissing it as kitschy or irreverant. So that could be in a D&D group. Or asking a coworker if they happened to watch the royal wedding. Or if they enjoyed the latest episode of Doctor Who.
As you’ll see from some of the articles presented in this issue, a conversation about your favorite television show can turn into one about the Christian values you hold dear. Creating a program that capitalizes on the fascination in our society for a certain teen-aged wizard who conquered evil can introduce people to another “one who lived” (and died and rose again) through the power that is love.
It all boils down to this: The Great Commission is our Ultimate Quest. We need to stop worrying about Average Sunday Attendance and reports proclaiming the demise of religion and set out with a mission to introduce as many as we can to the love of God. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations. And don’t be afraid to take The Doctor or Harry or Michael Curry with you.
Connections editor Julie Murray serves as Associate Director of Communication for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.