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        Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

Signs of God
by Kim Lane

Here in the last few notches of the Bible belt, it appears that the days of the milquetoast church marquee have become a thing of the past. Gone are the easily missed, often ignored, buzzing placards where carefully placed plastic letters would offer simple service times, visiting pastor's names and bible school enrollment information.

Many churches have now chosen to better utilize this valuable holy real estate by displaying a clever *churchbyte* of information on their marquees -- maybe an inspirational quote, a humorous anecdote or a micro-sermon. Perhaps our society's Internet-mentality of placing value and respect on the ability to deliver important information in easily-digested, mini-doses is putting extra pressure on churches to step up to the plate and try to out-marquee their brethren. Or maybe churches now consider the marquee a sort of midget evangelist, or a divine sandwich-board, as though the plastic-lettered finger of God is trained on you as you motor by, flashing bits of cheeky enlightenment and inspirational quips, some with palpable undercurrents of impending doom.

The new marquee challenge? What's going to be that one message, caught in your peripheral vision, that will make a wayward sheep screech across three lanes of traffic to get saved?

How about some of ones currently in use, such as the benign yet perky:

"Redemption while you wait!"

"Sign broken. Message inside."

"One hour service guaranteed!"

"Under same management for over 2000 years"

Or maybe the more flagrantly tongue-in-cheek:

"Large, non-smoking section available"

"In case of rapture, building for sale"

"Come this Sunday and beat the Christmas rush!"

"For God so loved the world that He did not send a committee."

How about the macabre:

"We hold things together with duct tape. God uses nails!"

Or the downright menacing:

"Think it's hot today? Wait till you see hell."

All said, you have to admire a church that has the guts to use subjective humor, sarcasm and veiled threats on its marquee.  And doesn't it make you wonder whose job it is to come up with the clever marquee messages? Is it a rotation kind of thing?  A sign-up sheet? Shortest Communion Wafer?

"Excellent job on the marquee this week, James. I've signed eight panicked new parishioners since Monday."
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Kim Lane's work has been featured at Salon.com, Oxygen Media, Mothering magazine and Pregnancy magazine to name a few.  She is currently a commentator for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and Publisher of AustinMama.

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