Mar 28, 2017

The Eastern PA Conference Communications Office won five awards for journalistic excellence from the United Methodist Association of Communicators (UMAC) March 23 at the professional organization’s annual meeting in New Orleans. Those awards included two, shared top writing awards for a feature article about a Philadelphia pastor and also recognition for the conference’s newspaper, website and weekly e-newsletter.

????????????????????????????????????Communications Director John Coleman shared a tie for two top awards: first place in feature writing and the overall Best in Class, Donn Doten Award of Excellence in writing. Both were for the article “Pastor’s healing from abuse inspires ministry and a meeting with the Pope.” His profile of the Rev. Myra Maxwell, pastor of Trinity UMC (formerly St. Barnabas-Bethsaida-St. Luke’s UMC) in Philadelphia, appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of NEWSpirit newspaper and later on the conference website.

Sharing in the tie was Christa Meland, Minnesota Conference Communications Director, for her article “Northern Light’s ‘love letter’ to Orlando reaches United Methodist pastor.” The two journalists spoke briefly after receiving their trophies, each expressing gratitude for the people, ministries and stories they are able to feature in their work.

The awards gala celebrated the work of 160 UMC communicators—from conferences, general church agencies and local churches—entered into 10 award classes that recognize diverse media resources, all created to help tell the church’s story. Indeed, the three-day UMAC event’s theme was “Embrace the Story.”

Coleman and Desktop/Web Publisher Lindsey Cotman also won three other awards together for the Eastern PA Conference Communications Office:

  • second place for NEWSpirit in the best newspaper competition;
  • third place for NEWSpirit Digest in the best e-newsletter competition; and
  • third place for in the best website content competition.

The Eastern PA Conference will be spotlighted again in 2018 when it hosts the next UMAC annual meeting in Philadelphia. The organization’s leadership team made that decision after researching Northeastern Jurisdiction locations and sought Coleman’s agreement to host the group.

In other banquet highlights, UMAC celebrated Carolyn Conover, Communications Director of the Greater New Jersey Conference (GNJC), as 2017 Communicator of the Year. Since she arrived there in 2013 to help the conference respond to Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, Conover has created and implemented a comprehensive branding and communications strategy for the GNJC and its A Future with Hope recovery campaign, helped raise $6 million for the conference’s Mission Fund, and administered dramatic improvements in its website, newspaper, advertising and other media resources.


Carolyn Conover, Greater New Jersey Conference Communications Director and the 2017 Communicator of the Year, is congratulated by UMAC’s president, the Rev. Art McClanahan (left), and Bishop John Schol.

GNJC Bishop John Schol came as a surprise guest to introduce Conover for the award presentation. UMAC also inducted Catherine Monoghan, retired Communications Director of the California-Nevada Conference and a former UMAC president, into its Hall of Fame.

The gathering of communicators, numbering over a hundred, worshiped at First Grace UMC in New Orleans, where they learned from its pastor and members about the multiracial congregation’s ongoing, challenging journey as a church forged from a necessary merger after Hurricane Katrina. See UMNS story: New Orleans church offers sanctuary.

They also learned about communications challenges and public relations efforts that occurred during and after the catastrophic August 2016 floods that struck Louisiana and the protests and violence that followed the July 2016 police shooting of an unarmed black man, Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge. Resident Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey joined Louisiana Conference communicators, local media professionals and a Baton Rouge pastor to discuss the church’s response and learnings in the wake of those tragedies.

UMAC members also heard insights on responding to crises through media communications from ABC television and radio reporter Kenneth Moton, formerly of Philadelphia’s 6ABC “Action News” program, and from fellow UMAC peers.

Moreover, they heard three bishops—John Schol of Greater New Jersey, Kenneth Carter of Florida and Bruce Ough of East Ohio—along with the Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, a UMC Connectional Table Executive Committee member and West Michigan Conference district superintendent, each discuss challenges and responsibilities facing the Council of Bishops’ Special Commission on a Way Forward. The panel fielded questions and addressed challenges and responsibilities also facing communication professionals in reporting the commission’s deliberations on human sexuality and church law to the denomination.

During their meeting, the communicators also engaged in “speed-learning” sessions to inform them about communications tools and tactics. They heard reports on emerging initiatives from various general agencies, including their partner agency, United Methodist Communications. And they elected new leaders, including new chairman Mark Doyal, Michigan Area Communications Director.View the complete list of UMAC awards

View the complete list of UMAC awards here.
View photos from the UMAC awards banquet here.

–John Coleman story. Arthur McClanahan photos