Sharing the Gift of Communicating 85 Years of Excellence
April 3-5, 2014
$20 fee for registration refund through March 26. You may send someone in your place if possible for no additional charge.
The Inn at Opryland
2401 Music Valley Drive
Nashville, TN 37214
Please make your own room reservations by calling 1-855-5THE INN (1-855-584-3466).
RCC 2014 Convention Schedule
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
7:00pm - 8:00pm
Wednesday Night at the Movies
Welcome to Shelbyville
Welcome to Shelbyville is a glimpse of America at a crossroads. In this small town in the heart of America's Bible Belt, a community grapples with rapidly changing demographics. Through the vibrant and colorful characters of the town, the film explores immigrant integration and the interplay between race, religion, and identity. The story is an intimate portrayal of a community's struggle to understand what it means to be American on the eve of the 2008 Presidential election.
Directed and produced by Kim A. Snyder, an award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of the BeCause Foundation which produces socially conscious documentaries that further the work of the social innovators they highlight. The film was originally aired on Independent Lens / PBS.
Bud Heckman from Religions for Peace USA will facilitate the discussion.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
8:30am - 12:00pm
Room In The Inn
Since Dec.1986, 365 days a year, Room In The Inn offers emergency services, transitional programs, and long-term solutions to help people rebuild their lives. Their mission is to provide programs that emphasize human development and recovery through education, self-help and work, centered in community and long term support for those who call the streets of Nashville home. On this service project you will have the opportunity to hear about the program and to participate in a service activity on location.
Magdalene and Thistle Farms
Founded in 1997, Magdalene is a residential program for women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction, and life on the streets. Thirty residents are offered the necessary resources to maintain recovery, heal from childhood wounds, become physically healthy and find employment. Magdalene stands as a witness to the truth that in the end, love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the streets. Thistle Farms is the social enterprise that is run by the women of Magdalene. The women create hand-made natural bath and body products that are as good for the earth as they are for the body. On this service project you will have the opportunity to hear about the program and to participate in a service activity at Thistle Farms.
1:30pm - 3:00pm
A Muslim perspective on the interrelation of religions and the role of religious communication in public advocacy
Remziya Suleyman, Director of Policy & Administration, American Center for Outreach
3:30pm - 5:00pm
Strategic Planning of Web Sites
Matt Carlisle, Founder of Big Heart Creative
Religion and the First Amendment
Gene Policinski, COO Newseum Institute
APR: Accreditation in Public Relations
Susan Barnes, APR, Fellow PRSA, retired public relations faculty, Belmont University, Nashville
As one benefit of membership, RCC members may seek accreditation in public relations. The voluntary APR designation identifies communicators who have demonstrated broad knowledge, experience and professional judgment in planning and managing public-relations activities. To earn accreditation, candidates must demonstrate mastery of a specified body of public relations knowledge.
6:30pm - 9:00pm
DeRose-Hinkhouse Awards Banquet
The DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards are given annually to active members of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) who demonstrate excellence in religious communications and public relations.
Friday, April 4, 2014
7:30am - 9:00am
RCC Business Meeting
9:30am - 11:00am
What Do the Underground Railroad and the Internet have in Common?
Dr. Sybril Bennett, Associate Professor at Belmont University, Nashville, TN
In her book, Innovate: Lessons from the Underground Railroad, Dr. Bennett applies her seven elements of innovation to the Underground Railroad and to the digital age.
11:30am - 1:00pm
Plenary and Lunch
We Must Speak
Rev. Larry Hollon, General Secretary, United Methodist Communications
In his book, We Must Speak: Rethinking How We Communicate Faith in the 21st Century, Rev. Hollon issues a clarion call to action for mainline denominations to speak now in the language of the day or risk becoming obsolete in this media-saturated world.
1:15pm - 2:45pm
Communicating Faith in the 21st Century
Caitlin Congdon, Communications Manager, United Methodist Communications
Communicating Faith in the 21st Century is designed to expand each participant's knowledge and skills to communicate their message of faith, hope and love in the 21st century using current and emerging communications tools and storytelling principles.
Communicating Faith in a Culture of Fear
Daoud Abudiab, President of the Islamic Center of Columbia in Columbia, Tennessee
How to Turn a Negative Message into a Positive
D. Greg Droubay, Director of the Media Division for the Missionary Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
3:00pm - 4:30pm
Making Social Media Work for You!
Joel Abramson, Community Engagement Associate at the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee and Sophia Agtarap, Minister of online engagement for Rethink Church, a movement led by United Methodist Communications
Social media evolves, so do the ways in which we use it and the tools that help us accomplish our goals. We can learn to work smarter using these great communication tools we have at our fingertips. Learn best practices, strategy, tools and messaging for the most commonly used channels. Bring your laptops, tablets and smart phones as well as your questions. This is a hands-on workshop to improve your skill set.
Religion in the Mainstream Media
Bob Smietana, Religion reporter and author
How To Handle a Crisis In Your Congregation
Aileen Katcher, Principal of Katcher Strategic Communications
In today's world of instant communications, a crisis can take many forms. How an organization responds in the first 60 minutes can set the tone for how it survives. Every congregation should have a crisis communications plan and hope that they never need it. Katcher will outline the key elements to include in the plan and how to make sure your team is ready to use it to communicate when and if (or even before) a crisis hits.
4:30pm - 6:00pm
85th Celebration Party
Optional: Documentary Film
Luminous Journey: 'Abdu'l-Bahá in America, 1912
Shot in high-definition and using engaging documentary storytelling, Luminous Journey celebrates the centenary of the travels of an Eastern sage, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, to America – a visit the filmmakers and others believe will eventually change the consciousness of our nation and the world.
RCC members and Filmmakers Anne & Tim Perry will introduce the film and lead a discussion afterwards.
Saturday, April 5, 2014
9:00am - 10:00am
The Role of Music in Religion Communications
Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters, Founding Pastor, Joy Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church, Dallas, TX
10:15am - 11:45am
Communicating Across Faith Lines
Joyce Litoff, Writer and Edtior, Office of Communications, Bahá’í National Center
Loving to tell the story – a hands-on writing session
Douglas F. Cannon, Ph.D., APR+M, Assistant professor of communication, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Good writing is simply good thinking with ink on it. Good writers think about their purpose, objective, reader, delivery medium and communication context before they type their first word. They match vocabulary and readability to audiences. They align message packaging with medium. They pick tactics most likely to reach their communication goals. Bring your computer or tablet to practice some techniques to make your writing more strategic.
1:30pm - 3:00pm
Moving from Page to Presence: Religious Communication and Global Community in a Digital Age
Sarah Wilke, Publisher, Upper Room Ministries
In this plenary, Sarah Wilke will describe the journey The Upper Room has taken from being a single, print publication to building meaningful community around the globe in 100 countries, in 35 languages. Technology offers a unique opportunity to engage with readers and participants in new and exciting ways. From social media to webinars to e-courses to digital magazines, The Upper Room is focused on moving from printed page to engaged presence.
7:00pm - 9:30pm
Wilbur Banquet and Awards
The Wilbur Award promotes excellence in the communication of religious faith and positive values by secular communicators.
Speakers and Workshop Leaders
Listed in alphabetical order.
Joel Abramson is the Community Engagement Associate at the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. Originally from Florida, he dedicated himself to Jewish communal work after being touched by Hillel at Kent State University. He began working for Hillel at Virginia Tech, engaging students with Shabbat programming and Israeli opportunities. Joel is now focusing on connecting with a Jewish Nashville. Thanks to a grant from the Jewish Federation and its Jewish Foundation, Joel's position allows him to work on developing opportunities for the 22-40 year-olds to find meaningful connections to their Jewish community.
Daoud Abudiab, a native of Palestine, is President of the Islamic Center of Columbia in Columbia, Tennessee, where he has made his home for over a decade. In 2001, Daoud was among the founders of the Islamic Center of Columbia. In February of 2008, he found himself in the national spotlight when the Center was desecrated and destroyed in a fire. By November of that year, the mosque reopened. Daoud has taken a leading role as a speaker on behalf of the Muslim community and as a builder of bridges between faiths. He is a member of Clergy for Tolerance and on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Immigrants and Refugee Rights Coalition. He became part of an initiative to educate others on tolerance called Our Muslim Neighbor, and recently founded the Faith and Culture Center. While maintaining his family life and job as administrator of a physicians group, he also assists as an organizer of the Family of Abraham series of interfaith educational events.
Sophia Agtarap is minister of online engagement for Rethink Church, a movement led by United Methodist Communications, dedicated to connecting and re-connecting young people who are disconnected or disengaged from church and faith communities, through relevant media and culture. She is a transplant from Seattle and is quickly finding herself charmed with the South. Connect with her on Twitter at @sophiakris or http://about.me/sophiakristina
Susan Barnes, APR, Fellow PRSA
Susan Barnes, APR, Fellow PRSA, is retired from the public relations faculty at Belmont University in Nashville.
Barnes previously worked in university advancement at the University of Tennessee and three other universities. She was a partner in her own public relations firm and has worked in community relations for the U.S. Department of Energy. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee.
She is accredited in public relations by the Public Relations Society of America and became a Fellow of PRSA in 2006. She has serves as immediate past chair of the Universal Accreditation Board.
Dr. Sybril Bennett
Dr. Sybril Bennett is an Associate Professor at Belmont University, Nashville, TN. She is a Vanderbilt educated, Harvard trained, two-time Emmy award winning multimedia journalist. She is currently an Associate Professor at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee where she helped to establish the New Century Journalism Program. With more than 20 years of experience in television news, she's worked behind the scenes at ABC in Milwaukee and at CBS in Chicago. Her last television gig was at CBS in Nashville where she was general assignment reporter, fill-in anchor and fill-in talk show host.
Dr. Bennett's first book, The Color-Full Alphabet Book is a Dr. Seuss-like work with positive inspiration for all children. In her latest book, Innovate: Lessons from the Underground Railroad, she applies her seven elements of innovation to the Underground Railroad and to the digital age. Her research areas include: social media, innovation and civility.
Dr. Bennett earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Vanderbilt University; a M.Ed. from Loyola University of Chicago; and a B.A. from Marquette University. She is an innovative facilitator, mentor and speaker spreading the word about and through social media at The Multimedia Maven and on Twitter @drsyb.
Douglas F. Cannon, Ph.D., APR+M
Immediate past RCC president, Douglas Cannon worked as a United Methodist communicator for nearly 25 years. He now teaches public relations as Assistant Professor of Communication at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and researches how faith groups practice public relations. He’s been a daily newspaper reporter, weekly newspaper publisher, TV newsmagazine producer and Army public affairs officer. He has taught writing since 1982.
Matt Carlisle is the founder of Big Heart Creative, a communications consultancy located in Nashville, Tenn. Big Heart Creative partners with nonprofit and faith-based organizations, helping them to embrace new media, create custom websites, and bring to life strategies that make the world a better place.
Caitlin Congdon is the Manager of Communications Training and Development at United Methodist Communications. She has a master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology with an additional 9 years of Training and Development experience. Caitlin has an extensive background developing online and face-to-face training programs. She joined the Training Department at UMCom in 2012.
D. Greg Droubay
D. Greg Droubay is the Director of the Media Division for the Missionary Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Media Division is responsible for all materials and communications designed for those that are not members of Mormon faith. This includes printed materials, mormon.org, and digital, social media, and television messaging and advertising. Mr. Droubay has overseen recent messaging and advertising efforts such as the "I'm a Mormon" campaign and the Church's response to the Book of Mormon Musical.
Amy J. Everhart
Amy J. Everhart, Attorney at Everhart Law Firm PLC, founded her law firm to counsel individuals and organizations in the creative industries, entrepreneurs, inventors, business owners, and others with legal needs in the areas of trademark, copyright, entertainment, and the internet.
From 1998 to 2009, Ms. Everhart practiced with Nashville law firm Riley Warnock & Jacobson, PLC, where she focused her practice on commercial litigation, entertainment, copyright, trademark, internet, and other intellectual-property matters. She was named a member of the firm in 2008.
Rev. Larry Hollon
The Rev. Larry Hollon is the chief executive of United Methodist Communications, the global communications agency of The United Methodist Church.
In 2012, Hollon authored We Must Speak: Rethinking How We Communicate Faith in the 21st Century. The book issues a clarion call to action for mainline denominations to speak now in the language of the day or risk becoming obsolete in this media-saturated world.
Before joining United Methodist Communications, Hollon was an award-winning producer whose primary focus was telling the stories of persons affected by poverty. His work has taken him to more than 50 countries to collaborate on projects ranging from the stories of street children in Brazil to economic self-development in rural villages in Africa. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies, governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations. He has also worked in television news and commercial radio as a talk show host, and has been published in numerous publications.
Hollon is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. He is a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma and Saint Paul School of Theology.
Aileen Katcher is principal of Katcher Strategic Communications, a PR firm which offers crisis readiness planning to help businesses plan for potential crisis. If a crisis does occur, it becomes part of the company’s ongoing crisis management and communications team. Katcher served for 10 years as the Executive Vice President of Holder Kennedy Public Relations before joining Baptist Hospital as Director of Marketing. She became a partner at Katcher Vaughn & Bailey Public Relations where she continued for 17 years. She is now in her current position as an independent consultant.
Joyce Litoff is a writer and editor who works in the Office of Communications at the Bahá’í National Center. She has served as a public spokesperson for the Bahá’í Faith, and is a frequent guest speaker and lecturer. She has a degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois. Joyce has personal life experience with other religions, as she was raised Catholic, spent the first ten years of marriage to her Jewish husband actively involved in synagogue life, and is now a member of the Bahá’í Faith.
Gene Policinski is chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and senior vice president of the First Amendment Center, one of the initiatives of the institute.
A veteran journalist, Policinski has worked in newspapers, radio, television and online operations; and is a long-time proponent of diversity in journalism as an essential characteristic of a free press. He lectures regularly to Diversity Institute programs and elsewhere on news gathering and reporting, and on journalism ethics.
Policinski co-writes the weekly, nationally distributed column, "Inside the First Amendment." He received a regional Emmy award in 2011 as executive producer of the public television program "Speaking Freely," produced by the First Amendment Center; and is an occasional host of the First Amendment Center's unique "Freedom Sings" live performance program about music that has been banned, censored or served as a call to social action.
Policinski came to the Freedom Forum in 1996 from USA TODAY, where he was an one of its founding editors and held various news executive positions. He is an adjunct faculty member at Winthrop University in South Carolina; and is a member of the Board of Advisors for the Institute for Media, Culture, and Ethics, at Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY. He is a member of the national board of trustees for the National Academy of Television and Arts and Sciences (NATAS), and a past trustee of the Newspaper Association of America Foundation. He was co-chair of the 2012 national convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
Bob Smietana served as the religion writer for The Tennessean from 2007-Aug 2013, and a correspondent for Religion News Service. He now works for LifeWay Christian Resources, writing about research on church and cultural trends for Facts and Trends magazine. His stories have appeared in national and regional US newspapers, including the Washington Post, the LA Times, and the Chicago Tribune, as well as national religious magazines such as Christianity Today, Christian Century, Sojourners, and US Catholic. He was one of the first American journalists to interview Graham Taylor and has written about Taylor for RNS and Christianity Today. Bob is the author of The Breath of Life: A Christian Exploration of Personhood, and co-author of Good Intentions. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Kathy, and their three children.
Maria A. Spear
Maria A. Spear, Attorney at Everhart Law Firm PLC is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where she majored in Vocal Performance, and Pace University School of Law. Ms. Spear has served as Contracts Manager at Country Music Television for their Artists of the Year program, and the CMT Music Awards.
She previously worked at the office of the Arizona Attorney General in the community services department, where she gave presentations across Arizona on identity theft and Internet safety.
Remziya Suleyman is Director of Policy & Administration at the American Center for Outreach. A native of Kurdistan, she came to the U.S. with her family in 1991. She holds a Master's in Public Administration and certificate in Nonprofit Management from Tennessee State University. She is known for her political activism on immigration issues, interfaith organizing, and her work in the Kurdish community to raise awareness on the Kurdish genocide.
She has spoken to diverse audiences on Kurdistan and its people, her own experience as a refugee and a Muslim woman, and on life in her community after September 11. Nashville Public Television featured her story in the award-winning documentary Little Kurdistan USA as part of the Next Door Neighbors series. She was recognized as one of the Nashville Scene's "Nashvillians of the Year" for her work in Nashville's immigrant communities in response to the historic flood of 2010, and her organizing and advocacy was highlighted in the recent New York Times article "The 9/11 Decade: Young Muslims Coming of Age."
As the former Policy Coordinator for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Remziya led a successful effort to mobilize Muslim leaders throughout the state against what could have become the most extreme anti-Muslim legislation in the country. In recognition of her exemplary work in her community and the field of human rights she was awarded as a 2011 Rising Advocate Honoree for the Tennessee Human Rights Day Celebration.
In 2012, she was voted one of the top inspirational Muslim women in the United States by MBMuslima's 40 under 40 a leading Muslim magazine that highlights 40 Muslim activists under the age of 40. Recently, she was named one of "13 TN Newsmakers to Watch in 2013" by the Tennessean, "13 Progressive Faith Leaders to Watch in 2013" by the Center for American Progress, and highlighted by the Nashville Scene in their 2013 People Issue.
Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters
The Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters is founding pastor of Joy Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas. A sought-after preacher, Dr. Waters has made numerous presentations before church, civic, collegiate, and corporate bodies on topics of interest ranging from Fortune 500 diversity practices and ethical leadership principles to the intersections of religion and hip-hop culture.
He is the author of Freestyle: Reflections on Faith, Family, Justice, and Pop Culture. His writings have appeared in such respected publications as The Huffington Post, The African American Pulpit, and Becoming Fire: Spiritual Writings from Rising Generations, with forthcoming efforts to appear in Feasting on the Gospels and The Upper Room Disciplines.
Dr. Waters is chair of the City of Dallas's Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center Board, chair of the Black Alumni of Southern Methodist University, and serves on the boards of the Community Council of Greater Dallas and of the Revitalize South Dallas Coalition. He is a recipient of The White House's Presidential Youth Service Award, the Humanitarian Award of the South Dallas Professional and Business Women’s Club, the B'nai B'rith's Harold M. Kaufman Memorial Award in Social Ethics, the William K. McElvaney Award in Peace and Justice, and the "M" Award, SMU's highest student honor.
Sarah Wilke is publisher of Upper Room Ministries, a United Methodist global prayer movement dedicated to Christian spiritual formation. Since assuming the post in July 2009, Wilke has overseen the Nashville-based operation, which most notably produces The Upper Room, a daily devotional guide with over 3 million worldwide readers. The nonprofit company produces an array of other faith-based magazines and books, as well as organizes seminars and workshops around the country and world. Upper Room Ministries is a division of the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church, and Wilke, also serves as an associate general secretary of the GBOD.
Previously, Wilke served five years as the chief executive officer of UMR Communications, a national communications ministry based in Dallas that includes the United Methodist Reporter, the UMPortal, and UMDigital printing. Prior to joining UMR, she served as the North Texas Annual Conference’s urban strategist for four years. In this extended-cabinet level position, she led Dallas inner-city efforts to form new congregations, revitalize existing churches, and spearhead community development initiatives.