THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

November 07, 2006 11:00 ET

Introducing WonderCafe

The United Church of Canada Opens its Doors Online and In Your Neighbourhood

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 7, 2006) -

Editors Note: A photo for this release will be available on the CP picture wire via CCNMatthews

On Tuesday, November 7, 2006, The United Church of Canada will launch a bold new, three-year media campaign that will be a first in Canada. WonderCafe, a major initiative designed to connect with Canadians aged 30-45 years, includes an interactive website, national magazine and community newspaper advertising, and a grassroots program. All are planned to engage Canadians across the country.

"The United Church of Canada believes in open, honest discussion," says the Rev. Dr. Keith Howard, Executive Director of the project. "We have established WonderCafe.ca as a place to explore moral and spiritual issues, in the tradition of diversity and openness to many points of view. This is a hallmark of the United Church. With WonderCafe.ca we're opening our doors to listen and to engage. The Internet provides the opportunity for rich and far reaching conversation.

In keeping with the style of the United Church, everyone, regardless of their race, denomination, sexual orientation or socio-economic background, is welcome to visit WonderCafe.ca to voice their opinion on anything top-of-mind _ global issues, personal problems, hot-button topics, moral dilemmas, and spiritual questions."

The December issues of major Canadian lifestyle magazines will launch a national print advertising campaign featuring a series of cheeky, made-you-look ads created to build awareness of the interactive WonderCafe.ca website.

The church developed the campaign in partnership with Toronto-based communications firm Smith Roberts + Co. "The task," says firm principal Malcolm Roberts "was to find a way for the church to connect in a way that was fresh and relevant, and yet also accurately reflected the character of the church. We think WonderCafe.ca meets and beats the goal."

Something to Stop and Wonder About

The first ad, which will launch during the Christmas season, provokes discussion on whether Christmas should be about Jesus, Santa Claus, or both. The ad features an image of Jesus sitting in a traditional Santa's Village mall setting, with a child on his knee, and asks, "Would you still take your kids?"

"The advertisement," says Rev. Howard, "illustrates a dilemma for many people - can you preserve the larger meaning of Christmas while, at the same time, exchanging gifts and keeping the fun factor throughout the festive season, especially for children? Spirituality and the mall - are they unrelated, opposed or the same?"

Fact: 84% of Canadians still believe in God and 75% consider God as an ever present force in their lives.(i)

Open for Discussion

All of the advertising surrounding WonderCafe.ca is designed to provoke discussion and, in many cases, challenge conventional thinking. Some issues, such as parenting or marriage, are intensely personal. For example, one ad features a new-born baby with the traditional hospital baby bracelet, not with a child's name but with a message: "WARNING: some re-assembly of priorities and beliefs may be required."

"Our aim is not to offend," says Rev. Howard, "but rather to invite conversation. We recognize the diversity of views in Canadian society, including those around faith-based issues. We are not afraid of diversity. It is one of our strengths."

Fact: 70% of Canadians believe that their own personal beliefs are more important than any particular denomination's teachings.(i)

Celebrating a Diversity of Viewpoints

The website, WonderCafe.ca, features a warm, inviting environment, much like a friendly, neighbourhood coffee shop. Inside visitors will find a number of discussion forums, guest columnists, online polls, member profiles, as well as topical articles and other items of interest, updated regularly. WonderCafe.ca will also be the new home for the EZ Answer Squirrel - a viral video ad designed to make people pause, ponder and laugh out loud at a squirrel who proves there are no easy answers to life's big questions. For those interested, there is also information about The United Church of Canada, including resources to help locate United Church congregations in each community across Canada.

Fact: 81% of Canadians feel that "faith gives my life more meaning", while 67% believe that "my religious faith is very important to my day-to-day life"(i)

From Same-Sex Marriage to "Help. My Son is Gay."

WonderCafe.ca will offer discussion forums allowing visitors to comment on any number of issues. While the site will be monitored to remove any racist, homophobic or hate-inspired messages, the Church will not decide on the topics for discussion. Anything and everything may be shared, debated and discussed. Current, public topics - yes - but WonderCafe.ca will also recognize that for many, today's key issues will be extremely personal. Some forums allow for people to reach out to others for advice on everyday issues such as parenting - from discipline techniques and setting curfews - to issues such as how to react when a child announces they are gay or asks pointed questions about sexuality or drugs.

"People are drawn to issues that directly affect them," says Rev. Howard. "The ability to engage in a friendly discussion with people who might have gone through the same experience will be one of strongest things that will keep people involved and coming back to the discussions on WonderCafe.ca. Also, the chance to connect with people who might have different viewpoints can also help put issues into perspective and help foster resolution. That's the great thing about building a diverse community."

Fact: 45% of Canadians pray on a daily basis. Only 19% of Canadians regularly attend any place of worship on a weekly basis. (i)

About the United Church of Canada

The United Church of Canada is the largest Protestant denomination in Canada with close to 3,500 congregations across the country. Renowned for its inclusive nature and strong commitment to social justice, the United Church focuses on those often overlooked in society: underprivileged people; women and children and people of diverse races and cultures, and sexual orientations.

On November 7, 2006, WonderCafe will officially open for business - online, in magazines and in your neighbourhood. We invite you to be a part of this exciting initiative. Please log on to www.wondercafe.ca, pull up a chair and join the conversation!

For more information and to download hi-res images of the ads, please visit the Media Room at WonderCafe.ca, beginning November 7, 2006.

(i) From: What Canadians Think (about Almost Everything), Darrell Bricker, Seal Books, June 2006.

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