RCC 2017 Convention: March 30 - April 1, 2017

2017 Convention: Virtually Here, There and Everywhere: Faith Communications and Presence


March 30 - April 1, 2017


Chicago, IL

Venue: Crowne Plaza Hotel Chicago O’Hare, 5440 North River Rd., Rosemont, IL 60018

  • Please make your own hotel reservations; use block code RCC.
  • Special RCC group rates at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare are $112 plus 14% tax.
  • Group rate deadline is March 15, 2017.



  • Full registration is $395 and includes all presentations, workshops, scheduled meals, DeRose-Hinkhouse and Wilbur Awards banquets.
  • Bring a spouse or partner for only $295.
  • Students can attend for $200 (Student ID required.)
  • Individual event tickets will be available.
  • Online registration
  • Printable registration form


We invite you to highlight your organization's services with faith-based communicators from around the country. The 2017 convention is a multi-faith forum intended to enrich, engage, educate and empower professional communicators of religion and faith-based issues.

Co-Chairs of RCC 2017 Steering Committee

Bill Aiken

William (Bill) Aiken, Director of Public Affairs, Soka Gakkai International - USA, Washington, DC. Contact Bill

Bud Heckman

Bud Heckman, Convenor, Interfaith Funders Group, New York, New York. Contact Bud

Jenn Meadows

Jenn Meadows, Director of Communications, General Commission on the Status and Role of Women of The United Methodist Church, Chicago. Contact Jenn


Convention planning is ongoing; schedule is subject to change. See also Workshop and Plenary Previews.

Wednesday, March 29



All day

Early Arrivals

Check-ins at Rosemont Crowne Plaza

Exhibits Set-up

6:00 p.m.

RCC National Board Meeting

7:30 p.m.

Wednesday Night at the Movies

Film: Violence in Chicago: Responding with Faith, a documentary produced by the Chicago Sunday Evening Club

Discussion with David Dault, president and CEO of the Chicago Sunday Evening Club, and special guests

Thursday, March 30



8:30 a.m.

Registration Opens

9:00 a.m.

Option: Film and Discussion

10:00 a.m.


Exhibits Open

12:00 p.m.

Lunch on your own

1:00 p.m.

Registration / Mingle

1:30 p.m.

Welcome and Introductions by RCC President Casey Tom



2:00 p.m.

Plenary: Guns into plowshares, presence into hope: On violence and role of faith communities

3:30 p.m.

Reception break (sponsored)

4:00 p.m.


6:00 p.m.

Dinner and DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Awards

Friday, March 31



8:00 a.m.

RCC Business Meeting and continental breakfast for members

9:30 a.m.


10:45 a.m.


11:00 a.m.


12:15 p.m.

Box lunch for onsite consumption and transport to the city

1:30 p.m.

Site visit to Saint James Cathedral, Downtown Chicago

Plenary: The great temptations: Lessons from covering Christianity


5:30 p.m.

Free evening in Chicago

Option: A Night of Improv at the Second City Comedy Club (option by pre-registration only; appx. $25 advance fee required)

Saturday, April 1



8:00 a.m.

Continental breakfast with facilitated peer group discussions (topics may include publishing and periodicals, social media, public relations, marketing, blogging/writing, web sites, etc.)

9:30 a.m.


11:00 a.m.


11:15 a.m.

Plenary on emerging trends/concerns/issues in public relations and communications

12:30 p.m.

Keynote Lunch (sponsored by the Foundation for Religious Literacy in partnership with RCC)

2:00 p.m.

Site visit and tour

6:00 p.m.

Wilbur Awards Reception

7:00 p.m.

Wilbur Awards Dinner

Workshop and Plenary Previews

A very full conference is planned and workshops and plenaries will be added on an ongoing basis, as all details are secured. See also Schedule-at-a-Glance.


Guns into plowshares, presence into hope: On violence and role of faith communities

Toni PreckwinkleCook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has been a dedicated community leader for over two decades. She has worked with the Cook County Board of Commissioners, elected officials and county employees to implement major reform and reshape county government through fiscal responsibility, innovative leadership, transparency and accountability, and improved services.

Since taking office in December 2010, President Preckwinkle has rebuilt the credibility of county government, solving for over $1.4 billion in budget deficits and cutting $465 million in expenditures. She established the county’s first performance management initiative to demand more accountability from county operations and employees.

President Preckwinkle has developed a broad policy agenda – focusing on critical public safety reform, working to strengthen the county’s health care system, and increasing the capacity and capability of our economic development efforts.

President Preckwinkle is also president of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, a separate governmental body. The FPCC is one of the oldest and largest forest preserve districts in the country spanning 69,000 acres, which makes up 11% of the County footprint.

Before being elected Cook County Board President, Preckwinkle served 19 years as Alderman of the 4th Ward. During her tenure she worked to improve our local public schools and increase the amount of affordable housing sponsoring two Living Wage and Affordable Housing Ordinances. Her independent and progressive leadership earned her the IVI-IPO Best Alderman Award six times as well as two Leon Despres Awards.

Prior to holding elected office, President Preckwinkle taught high school history for ten years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from the University of Chicago. She is the mother of two and the grandmother of three.


The great temptations: Lessons from covering Christianity

Covering a faith tradition in an always changing crucible is a challenging balance act of expectations and hopes, as well as demands and realities. Two well-respected editors share their insights into the great temptations they face in covering Christianity. With humor, humility, and honesty, they share stories of what they think works for them and their audiences. Their tips will be of interest to religious communicators of many faiths.


Mark GalliMark Galli is editor-chief of Christianity Today. A graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz (B.A.) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.), he served churches in Mexico City and Sacramento, California as a Presbyterian pastor before moving into journalism. He has also been an editor with Leadership and Christian History magazines, and has written for a variety of publications. He is author of a number of books, including Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God (Baker Publishing), Francis of Assisi and His World (Lion Publishing) and Beyond Bells and Smells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy (Paraclete Press). He has also written a forthcoming popular biography of theologian Karl Barth with Eerdmans.

Joyce DurigaJoyce Duriga is editor of Catholic New World, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago. She previously worked in the Diocese of Pittsburgh for Catholic Charities and the diocesan Communications department. She later served as an editor at Our Sunday Visitor national newsweekly. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous local and national publications. In 2017 her book on death-penalty abolitionist Sister Helen Prejean will be published by Liturgical Press. She is a graduate of Penn State with a degree in journalism.

Bill AikenBill Aiken, a practicing Buddhist since 1968, serves as national public affairs director for Soka Gakkai International (SGI)-USA, a socially engaged, lay Buddhist community. He is also the director of the SGI's Washington, D.C. Buddhist Culture Center. Located on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C., the SGI-USA Office of Public Affairs seeks to bring a Buddhist-humanist perspective on contemporary issues and works with others to advance the values of global citizenship, peace culture, nuclear disarmament, education for sustainable development, free religious expression, and the separation of church and state.


Podcasts that are addictive

Who listens to podcasts? How do they listen to them? What are the best ways to produce them? How do you distribute them and build audience? What does it take to make one well? What makes them “sticky” and “interesting?” How do they integrate with other communications and activities? What are common mistakes?

Two successful podcasters – David Dault of the Chicago Sunday Evening Club and Steve Martin of the National Council of Churches – share their tips, tricks, and insights. Participants will leave with a clear idea of how to produce and publish their own podcasts and learn how to make existing podcasting work better.

David DaultDavid Dault is an expert at helping people tell their stories. He produces engaging, innovative media for public radio, public television, and public events.

He currently serves as president and CEO of the Chicago Sunday Evening Club (founded 1908), a world-renowned nonprofit media company that is a pioneer in non-denominational, faith-focused radio and television broadcasting.

Since 2013, he has been the executive producer for Responding with Faith, an ongoing series of television documentaries for WTTW in Chicago. Each hour focuses on a different problem facing the city, and highlights the ways that faith communities are making a positive impact to solve those crisis issues.

David is also the creator, executive producer, and host of the radio program Things Not Seen: Conversations about Culture and Faith, an hour-long, weekly interview program available to NPR affiliates through PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

The show features both local Chicago and nationally-profiled guests. In 2014, New York Times bestselling author Reza Aslan praised his conversation with David as “one of the best interviews I've ever had.” Other notable guests, such as Phyllis Tickle and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, agree.

David holds a Ph.D. in theology from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and an M.A in theological studies from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta.

Steve MartinRev. Steven D. Martin is the director of communications and development for the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. He has served United Methodist churches as pastor for twenty years and is a graduate of Candler School of Theology.

He has produced several films for public television, including Muslims in Appalachia, Islam in America After September 11th, Theologians Under Hitler, God With US: Baptism and the Jews in the Third Reich, Elisabeth of Berlin, and most recently, Islam in America: The Christian Truth. He has lectured at the prestigious Chautauqua Institute and in churches and seminaries across the US.

In 2007 Rev. Martin was honored at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for his work with Theologians Under Hitler. He has written for the Washington Post, appeared in Newsweek magazine and in USA Today, and has most recently worked with the White House a policy and social media campaign, “Know Your Neighbor,” aimed at reducing religious-based bigotry in the US.

He is the proud father of four children.


Creating meaningful materials by and for children and adolescents

One of the most important things we can do to build the vibrancy of our communities is to engage the ideas, enthusiasm, and energy of children and youth. This session will share learning and experiences from two youth publications, Brilliant Star and KidSpirit. These two organizations will describe their distinct approaches for engaging youth about questions of significance. Brilliant Star, published by the Bahá’ís of the U.S., empowers kids ages 8-12, from all faiths, to explore their roles as world citizens through stories, activities, music, and more. KidSpirit’s mission is to engage adolescents ages 11-17 from many backgrounds and traditions through writing, artwork, and poetry created and curated by youth around the globe.

Join us for a lively and enlightening conversation about why it’s critical to incorporate the needs and perspectives of kids and teens into our publication missions. By offering youth tools and opportunities for exploring and expressing their faith and ideas, we help them to develop the skills and strengths to contribute positively to a global community.

Elizabeth Dabney HochmanElizabeth Dabney Hochman, MM, is the founding editor and executive director of KidSpirit, an unaffiliated magazine and online community that empowers global youth to explore life’s big questions in a spirit of openness. In 2016, KidSpirit was awarded first place in the Magazine Overall Excellence Award by the Religion Newswriters Association. In its nearly ten years in publication, KidSpirit has received special recognition by many organizations including the Parent’s Choice Foundation, the Association of Educational Publishers and Common Sense Media, and received awards from the Religion Communicators Council, and NAPPA, among many others.

Ms. Dabney Hochman is a graduate of Princeton University, with a Masters in Music from the Mannes College of Music. She has published a number of articles on spiritual development in youth, and has presented at events sponsored by Yale Divinity School, Princeton University, the Religion Communicators Council, the Big I Conference, Search Institute, and the Parliament of the World’s Religions, among others. Elizabeth is a graduate of Princeton University and lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Amethel Parel-SewellAmethel Parel-Sewell is the editor/creative director for Brilliant Star Magazine and Brilliant Star Online, published by the Bahá’ís of the U.S. to encourage world citizenship, spiritual development, and a love of learning in kids and youth worldwide. Brilliant Star’s team has earned over 30 awards under Amethel’s direction since 1997. She brings to the team broad strategic vision and agility from her multi-disciplinary experience as a photojournalist, photography editor, graphic designer, multimedia producer, and as a chief editor for other award-winning publications. She encourages a culture of collaboration and mutual respect to foster creativity and team unity.

Amethel has a BA in Photojournalism with minors in Graphic Design and Folk Studies from Western Kentucky University. When she’s not lighting a pathway of excitement and achievement for her team, Amethel can be found on the beach with her family, tending to her succulent garden, or photographing the Milky Way and other natural wonders.

Aaron KreaderC. Aaron Kreader is the master artist behind the dynamic range of engaging and imaginative characters for Brilliant Star Magazine and Brilliant Star Online, published by the Bahá’ís of the U.S. for an international audience of kids and youth. As a prolific designer/illustrator since 1999, Aaron infuses his art with freshness and humor. His background in game and comic creation enhances his ability to develop compelling puzzles, activities, and mazes. He creates cover art that attracts readers with rich visuals while encouraging thoughtful exploration of complex themes. He also expands Brilliant Star’s online content through inviting “How to Draw” videos.

He and his wife, Lisa Blecker, publish award-winning tabletop games and books through their company, Studio 9, Inc. Away from the drawing board, Aaron loves to play games and sports of all kinds. He has an MFA in digital art from Florida Atlantic University and a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University.

Amy RenshawAmy Renshaw is the senior editor of Brilliant Star Magazine and Brilliant Star Online, guiding the editorial team in developing creative concepts and content for these publications of the Bahá’ís of the U.S. She joined the team in 2000 as a part-time editor, and by 2005 her enthusiasm for encouraging kids as world citizens inspired her to embrace a leadership role as senior editor. Since then, she’s been instrumental in innovating content and workflows for the magazine and web site. With a focus on collaboration and consultation, she coaches staff, freelancers, contributors, and kid bloggers. A fan of sleuthing since discovering Nancy Drew books as a kid, Amy loves finding fascinating scientific facts related to kids’ interests and challenges.

In her free time, she hikes in the Wisconsin woods, writes historical nonfiction, or bakes chocolate-laden treats. Amy has a BA in English and Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.


Communications lessons learned from hosting the Pope in the U.S.

Father Manuel DorantesFather Manuel Dorantes served as the spokesperson for the Vatican to the Spanish-language media during the visit of Pope Francis to the United States.

Since 2014 he has worked as an assistant to the director of the Holy See Press Office as liaison to the Spanish-speaking media. He has been a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago since 2010.

Fr. Dorantes is a native of Mexico and immigrated to the United States when he was twelve.


News from the frontlines: Defeating anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant movements

Kalia AbiadeKalia Abiade is the advocacy director at the Center for New Community (CNC), a research and advocacy organization that tracks organized racist movements in the United States. She leads CNC's work to equip and mobilize grassroots organizations and national coalitions to challenge racial discrimination in public discourse, practice, and policy.

Kalia brings to her work more than a decade of experience as a newspaper editor and reporter, and she taught high school students in Southwest Virginia with the Upward Bound/TRIO program.

Her analysis has been cited in The Washington Post, The Nation, The Associated Press, The Hill, and NPR, among other outlets. She currently serves as an adviser for the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative.

She lives with her husband and their children in Chicago.


Advancing ministry through Accreditation in Public Relations

As one benefit of membership, RCC members may seek Accreditation in Public Relations. The voluntary APR designation is recognized across many fields. RCC is one of nine communication organizations participating in the APR credentialing process. Communicators with APR after their names show they have demonstrated broad knowledge, experience, and professional judgment in planning and managing public relations activities. For RCC members those activities relate directly to advancing the mission and ministry of their faith group. This workshop will discuss the value of APR; explain the accreditation process; review the knowledge, skills and abilities that APR candidates must master; and help religion communicators plan how to earn accreditation.

Doug CannonDouglas F. Cannon, Ph.D., APR+M, Fellow PRSA, represents RCC on the Universal Accreditation Board. That board is the credentialing agency for members of nine professional communication/public relations organizations and public affairs practitioners in the Department of Defense.

Cannon is a former RCC president and United Methodist communicator. He now teaches public relations at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.


Crisis communications: not “if,” but “when”

Every organization experiences crises. How serious they are, how much attention they get outside of your organization and how your agency’s leaders respond can determine the future well-being of your organization. Faith-based agencies are held to a higher standard and the spotlight is especially bright when a crisis happens in the religious realm. This presentation will provide you with the outline of a plan for your organization, prompt you to think about how to protect the future of your organization’s reputation and operations and include an interactive exercise to get you thinking about how to respond when, not if, a crisis happens.

Katherine KerrKatherine Kerr is a recovering journalist who covered numerous crises and disasters as a reporter for daily newspapers. As a reporter for 11 years, she covered the police and criminal court beats, as well as general assignments. Disasters/crises include the Challenger explosion, two Delta crashes, the kidnapping and murder of a UT student by narcosatanicos in Matamoros, Mexico, numerous floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, murders, suicides, car accidents. In the nonprofit sector, she has had to deal with client, volunteer and staff deaths and inappropriate behavior; layoffs, sales and shut downs of services, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires. So she has seen it and worked it from both sides and gets what works and what doesn’t.

She brings a practical and realistic approach to non-profit communications. Katherine began working in the non-profit sector in 1991 and her employers have included Concordia University in Austin,  Lutheran Social Services of the South and Texas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). She is the former president of the RCC’s Central Texas chapter and is the treasurer for the RCC’s national Board of Governors. She earned the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation. She and her husband, Tim Kubatzky, founded Polaris Non-Profit Solutions, LLC, which offers communications, marketing, and fundraising consulting services to non-profits.


Three keys to reaching people through Facebook – Beautiful, Now, and Personal

Francis HoffmanRev. Francis J. Hoffman (“Father Rocky”) will share effective, proven strategies on how to communicate about religious faith through Facebook, apps, and other social media.

According to Father Hoffman, his three keys to reaching audiences on Facebook are “Beautiful,” “Now,” and “Personal.” In his workshop, he will discuss these ideas, his experiences of what works and doesn’t work on social media, and how to adapt to the latest changes on the Facebook platform.

Father Hoffman is the executive director of Relevant Radio, a Catholic radio network which broadcasts on 65 stations in 29 states. His “Father Rocky” Facebook page has 3 million likes and reaches 30 million unique persons monthly.

Convention Logos

Use these logos on your own web site and in your publications.


Previous RCC Conventions

powered by MemberClicks