Ron Smith downloads and studies up to 30 or 40 pages of “church verbiage” to produce a simple answer to prayer that ultimately ends up on the marquee of his Fair Haven church.
That’s how the administrator of Fair Haven’s Cathedral of Higher Praise on Grand Avenue described the process of deciding the message that finally ends up on marquee of the 20-year—old congregation. His congregation is affiliated with the Pentecostal Church of God of Prophecy denomination.
The messages often turn out to be clever, sometimes humorous. The aim, said Smith is “to make you think.”
Smith is not theologically trained; he works as a credit analyst in Branford. His job as administrator of the congregation includes what to put on the marquee. To do that, he checks out the vast resources of the web for what he termed “church verbiage.”.
“I pray over them, and when one comes to me that’s right, I use it.”
The three lines, or less, stay up for a week or a month, depending on their effectiveness. That’s measured, in part, by the response it evokes in members or passersby.
With only three lines, Smith said, “There isn’t a lot of room for scripture.”
A favorite that Smith recalled on Saturday, as he and other congregants prepared for Sunday services and their annual food bag giveaway to the needy, was “Iphone, Ipad, Ipray.”
Another was: “Will your seat be smoking or non-smoking?”
That made this obtuse reporter ask if the church actually has a smoking section. Smith patiently explained that the Cathedral of Higher Praise is definitely a non-smoking zone. The message was rather to tweak the reader to think about heaven [non-smoking] or that other far smokier place.
One church member, Elder Ricardo Anderson, said, “A lot of people come in” specifically having seen the sign.
Because the venerable 1853 brick church building rises on a set-back at least 25 yards from Grand Avenue across from Fair Haven School, the marquee announces the church is there, alive, well, and operating, he said.
Smith said his church purchased the building from a Methodist congregation 20 years ago. It was built by Congregationalists in 1853. Architecturally, the building earns its current name with soaring brick work that rises on the front facade into castle-like crenelations.
The building is beautiful and expensive to maintain, Smith said. Then he added: “We take care of her and she takes care of us.”
That’s a phrase taut enough to fit on a marquee.