Written by Gregg Brekke
Rolling billboards on bicycles (or more accurately, quadricycles) are circling the streets around DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Mich., with that message this weekend. The display is the familiar God Is Still Speaking (GISS) black and red logo with the swooshes of General Synod 27's theme "Immerse Yourself."
They will be on the streets from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. With luck, the breeze that kept them relatively cool Friday morning will continue throughout the weekend.
Providing the pedal power are Brant and Angela Widdis of Rockford, Mich., who donned GISS T-shirts and cycled from the convention center to the city center at Rosa Parks Circle to the cluster of Synod hotels. The young husband-and-wife team left their three children with their grandparents to take on the job for Traffic Displays, a statewide company that retools all kinds of vehicles to be movable ad displays.
The Stillspeaking Ministry provided the graphic and Traffic Displays printed it on the vertical displays laced onto the A-shaped, two-sided frames.
Two stationary billboards are greeting more than 3,500 delegates and visitors converging on Grand Rapids for GS27, and light-pole banners decorate the downtown area. Nearly 400 TV spots have taken to the airwaves on local stations and print ads are popping up in the daily Grand Rapids Press along with several weekly and monthly publications.
All of this is intended to spread the word locally that the UCC is in town.
"In recent years, we've come to understand that General Synods are not just a time to gather, worship and celebrate internally as a church family," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the UCC's director of communications. "But it's a great evangelistic opportunity to tell the UCC's story to the widest possible audience, to share our unique identity with others, and to invite them to learn more about us and to visit our local churches."
The Stillspeaking Ministry committed about $30,000 to the local advertising effort, according to the Rev. Felix Carrion, coordinator of the UCC's Stillspeaking Ministry.
"We want everyone throughout the region to know more about the UCC by the time we leave Grand Rapids," Carrion said. "We know that we only have one opportunity to make a good impression, and the good impression we make on Grand Rapids can benefit our churches there for weeks and months to come."