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RCC 2016 Convention news headlines

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Hollywood reworks Muslim stereotypes

(RNS) As part of his “Islam in Film” class at the University of Nebraska, religious studies professor Kristian Petersen screens movies such as “The Hurt Locker” (2008), “Argo” (2012) and “American Sniper” (2014) to make the point that depictions of Muslims on the big screen often involve a conflict narrative.

Muslim characters are either terrorists or “good” Muslims trying to overcome “bad” Muslim plots. In either case, they “are still constrained by conflictual framing,” typically around themes such as terrorism, post-9/11 politics or overseas military intervention.

But Hollywood is slowly changing this paradigm as writers, show-runners, producers and directors reach out to cultural advisers and Muslims become part of the creative process.

Read more on the RNS site...

Searching for ‘radio gold’ at NPR

Hansi Lo Wang

Hansi Lo Wang at the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) New York Chapter meeting

By Linda Bloom, New York Chapter President

Whenever Hansi Lo Wang, a New York-based national reporter for National Public Radio, leaves his desk with microphone in hand, he is searching for “radio gold,” he told the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) New York Chapter during a May 24 lunch meeting.

“Part of our (NPR’s) signature is really to find the personal story, the human element,” Wang said.

Wang, who covers issues and events in the Northeast, represented the news agency at the Wilbur Awards dinner during the RCC 2016 Convention in New York, where NPR received an award for its coverage of “Pope Francis, Catholicism and His Visit to Cuba and the U.S.”

Read more...

Religion News Service editor-in-chief speaks to DC chapter

By Joben David, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty intern

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky, Editor-in-Chief of Religion News Service (RNS)

Jerome Socolovsky knows a thing or two about good reporting. But it is his knowledge and appreciation of religion that makes him an asset at his role as the Editor-in-Chief of Religion News Service (RNS). In speaking to members of the Washington chapter of the Religion Communicators Council on May 18, Socolovsky stressed the continued challenge and importance of reporting religious news in the “misinformed marketplace of religions” that is America. A lack of context and depth, says Socolovsky, has led to widespread ignorance of matters of faith. RNS works to shed light on these reporting gaps by supplying unbiased reports on religious issues from around the country, and world.

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Local church communications directors discuss their work

Literally putting their heads together, (l-r) Lynn Sullivan, Jami Eggleston, and M. E. Clary share a laugh at the round-table discussion at the May Chapter meeting for Dallas-Ft. Worth Chapter.

Four congregational-level communicators led a round-table discussion at the May chapter meeting for the Dallas-Ft. Worth Chapter of RCC. Their topic(s) were "greatest challenges" and "best practices" for that job.

M.E. Clary from NorthPark Presbyterian Church, Dallas; Jami Eggleston, Highland Oaks Church of Christ, Dallas; Lynn Sullivan, King of Glory Lutheran Church, Dallas; and Teresa Tysinger, First Presbyterian Church, Ft. Worth shared the challenges, opportunities, frustrations and successes they each find in fulfilling the communications role at a church.

May 2016 The Interfaith Observer (TIO) highlights articles by Bud Heckman

Bud HeckmanBud Heckman is vice president of the RCC national board, executive director of the International Shinto Foundation, and editor of InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook. Several articles he has had published in TIO in recent years are highlighted in the May issue of TIO. One article is highlighted below.

Hacking a Better Future for Interfaith Cooperation

At the recent Religion Communicators Council convention in New York City, Daniel Sieberg of Google News Lab gave attendees a peek at some of the cool tools that Google has in its carousel. Most of us use the Google Search and Maps features regularly, but there is much more under Google’s hood. Several tools got me thinking about how we could significantly improve the enterprise of interfaith cooperation.

While there is much waterfront to explore, in this article I will focus on just two suggestions:

  • analysis of Google Trends meta search data on the terms we all use that could help lead us to discover better ways to publicly describe our work in interfaith cooperation, and
  • use of virtual reality to help us significantly advance exposure of many more people to the religious “other.”

Read more of this article on the TIO web site...

Read more articles by Bud Heckman in the May issue of TIO...

A Laboratory for Interfaith Studies in Pennsylvania Dutch Country

ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. — As a high school student, James Spearman excelled in math and science, and for a hobby at home, he assembled insulation pipes into a model roller coaster looping from floor to ceiling and back. So it was not surprising that he chose engineering as his major when he enrolled here at Elizabethtown College.

Then Mr. Spearman ended up in his second choice for a first-semester seminar, a class titled “Big Theological Questions” that was taught by the college chaplain. Indeed, Mr. Spearman had already been asking himself questions since drifting from his Baptist upbringing toward atheism and trying out meditation.

Read more on The New York Times site...

Religion Communicators Council Convention: Faith-based Communications: Bridges, Avenues, and Intersections (2016)

By Maggie Krueger, Pluralism Project Research Associate

RCC members gather for a plenary session.

Photo by George Conklin.

On Thursday, March 31 through Saturday, April 2, 2016 over 100 Religion Communicators Council (RCC) members met throughout New York City for a three-day conversation about the challenges, innovations, shortcomings and successes of faith-based communication. The shifting location of the annual RCC convention each day brought attendees to the Interfaith Center, the Church of Latter-Day Saints Center, the Church Center for the United Nations and finally the St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral. Further, over a third of convention attendees were new members to RCC, bringing their own religious and sector diversity, to varying mixture of convention locations.

Read more on Pluralism Project web site...

The AP, NPR, CNN among winners of RCC’s annual Wilbur Awards

Casey Tom, president of the national Religion Communicators Council, presented the special Wilbur Award to the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell.

Photo by George Conklin.

Religion Communicators Council honors 22 for work during 2015

NEW YORK — Honoring excellence in communicating religious issues, values and themes in 2015, the Religion Communicators Council handed out 22 Wilbur Awards to individuals in the secular media April 2 in areas of print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting and motion pictures.

Winners included representatives from Own: The Oprah Winfrey Network, The Associated Press, CBS News, National Public Radio, Vanity Fair, CNN and The Atlantic, to name a few.

Read more...

Religion Communicators Council Handa Fellows mark first gathering at 2016 RCC Convention

By Tiffany McCallen

RCC Handa Fellows and Bud Heckman (far right) at the RCC 2016 convention

Photo by George Conklin

NEW YORK (April 1, 2016) — Eleven young religion communicators met in person for the first time at the 2016 Religion Communicators Council Convention in New York City March 30.

The public relations professionals and students were named last fall, along with a cohort of 16 Religion Newswriters Association honorees, as 2015-16 Handa Fellows in Interreligious Communication through a new joint program by RCC and RNA. The fellowships are funded by a grant to RNA’s Foundation from the New York-based International Shinto Foundation. The program seeks to foster greater religious literacy in faith-based communication and mainstream religion reporting.

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Strategic partnerships key to humanitarian effectiveness

By Kelly Fanning

Dr. Olusimbo Ige, Claus Grue, and Caterina Tino were co-leaders of the “Humanitarian and faith-based organizations link arms to protect vulnerable women and children” workshop at RCC 2016.

Photo by George Conklin.

NEW YORK — Dr. Olusimbo Ige says that no single organization can address the needs of vulnerable women and children – the job is too big. That’s why partnerships are crucial if humanitarian efforts are to be effective.

Ige is the director for Global Health, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, and was among the presenters of “Humanitarian and Faith-based Organizations Link Arms to Protect Vulnerable Women and Children” on April 2 at the Church Center for the UN.

Also presenting were Claus Grue of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Caterina Tino of UNICEF. Each presenter brought a specific perspective that in combination with the others provided a big picture look at strategic partnerships in general and partnerships that propel faith and morality into action in particular.

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Fundraising is everyone’s job, RCC leader says in workshop

By Leigh Rogers

Bud Heckman led a workshop on finding funding for nonprofits at RCC 2016.

Photo by George Conklin.

NEW YORK — In this day and age of working for and running nonprofit organizations, fundraising touches everyone’s jobs within communications, whether it’s posting appeals on the organizational web site, building relationships with potential donors, or customer service.

The Rev. Bud Heckman led a workshop at the Religion Communicators Council’s (RCC’s) annual convention, held at the Church Center for the United Nations on, April 2, called, “Oh, Go Fund Yourself!” helping members understand the best ways to raise funds for their organizations.

Heckman is vice president of RCC and executive director of the International Shinto Foundation, and he has experience fundraising for Religions for Peace and the El Hibri Foundation. He said running a nonprofit is 50 percent fundraising. His workshop gave basic tips in writing grants, approaching foundations and getting started.

Read more...

Presenter gives tips on writing with a purpose

By Emma Snyder

Doug Cannon leading strategic writing workshop at RCC 2016.

Photo by George Conklin.

NEW YORK — On a sunny and unusually warm afternoon in New York, only a compelling workshop could keep you inside. Doug Cannon’s April 1 workshop on writing with purpose was one of them. In under an hour, he gave religion communicators a crash-course in strategic, effective writing.

What is writing? It falls somewhere between “linking symbols together to say something” and “communication using the written word.” In practice it involves frantically typing away while trying to meet deadlines. Good writing is essential to spreading your message in an increasingly crowded media environment.

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Diverse group of religion communicators gathered to build bridges, find avenues and discover intersections

RCC members gather for a plenary session.

Photo by George Conklin.

NEW YORK (April 5, 2016) — In a world with dizzying religious diversity, taking time to consider ways to enrich communication among religious groups and with the public is important now more than ever before.

Over three days March 31 to April 2, more than 120 communicators from across the religious spectrum gathered in New York City to build “bridges” among faith groups, find “avenues” to new communications skills and discover “intersections” between faith groups at the Religion Communicators Council’s (RCC) annual convention.

To open the conference, the Rev. Dr. James Forbes, minister emeritus of The Riverside Church in New York, urged religion communicators to take God’s love, justice, mercy, and truth that they receive then mix it, write it, video it, print it.” In doing so, each will see the legacy of faith and give it away. “If you do that – give it away – then you’ll be happy,” he said.

Read more...

United Nations discovers that faith-based organizations also support sustainable development goals

By Brian Gray, APR

Members of the United Nations Panel discussing "What's Faith Got To Do With It?: Faith Organizations, the UN, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)" included (left to right) Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, the Rev. Dr. Karin Achtelstetter, Dr. Azza Karam,and Lt. Colonel (Dr.) Dean Pallant.

Photo by Deb Christian.

NEW YORK — It could be a plot for a romance novel: Ignored for years and now loved too much. But in this case the ignored are the thousands of faith-based organizations concerned about sustainable development and the recent suitor is the United Nations.

That was one take-away from a seminar titled Faith Organizations, the UN and the Sustainable Development held April 2 as part of the RCC annual convention in a setting directly across the street from the United Nations headquarters.

Moderator Dr. Azza Karam, coordinator of the UN interagency task force on religion and development, opened the session by asking: “What’s faith got to do with it?

Participating on the panel with her were the Rev. Dr. Karin Achtelstetter, general secretary of the World Association for Christian Communications; Lt. Colonel (Dr.) Dean Pallant, director of the Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission; and Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, World Council of Churches representative to the UN and coordinator of the UN ecumenical office in New York.

Read more...

Getting a ‘like’ is not enough, workshop leader tells attendees

By Colleen Dorner

Ryan John Koch emphasized the need for strategy and planning to develop good social media in his workshop at RCC 2016.

Photo by Colleen Kirby Dorner.

New York — In leading an organization’s social media efforts, sometimes getting a “like” is not enough. Ryan Koch, director of New York Office of Public and International Affairs for the LDS Church led a workshop on taking social media to the next level at the 2016 Religion Communicators Council’s Convention April 1.

Koch quoted a colleague “Social media is free, like a puppy is free.” Yes, social media can be free, if done wrong. If you want to have a good product you have to strategize and plan. And this takes time and personnel.

Koch listed tools/ideas for social media facilitators:

  1. Success – measure your success (likes, share, comments).
  2. Leeway – know how much leeway your organizational leader is giving you to comment freely.
  3. Ghost Writing – whose voice should the platform have?
  4. Audience – what kind of audience does your organization want to appeal to. “General public” is your worst audience, you must define a specific age group with a special social media platform.
  5. Editorial Calendar
  6. Specific Social Media Campaigns

Read more...

Panel explores intersection of faith and creative work

By Stephen Padre

Religion and the Arts panel – Jeanne Lehman, Hemal Trivedi, Melanie Baker, and Father James Martin, SJ, moderator – with Brian Finnerty of the New York Chapter of RCC.

Photo by George Conklin.

NEW YORK — They don’t communicate faith in the traditional ways of producing newsletters or sending out tweets about programs or fundraising campaigns. Rather, they convey their faith in often ephemeral ways and express the heart and soul.

A writer, a Broadway singer/actress, a film editor, and a musician spoke at a lunchtime panel titled “Religion and the Arts” on April 1 as part of the Religion Communicators Council’s National Convention in New York. Other panelists provided personal reflections on how faith intersects with their creative work and in general about the many connections between religion and the arts.

Moderated by The Rev. Father James Martin, SJ, a Jesuit priest, editor and book author, the panel gave insight into the creative process and how faith is expressed through the vocation of performers and creators of artistic works.

Election year and beyond: Social and political activism in the city’s black churches

By Bill Aiken*

Terrell Jermaine Starr, Rev. Jacques Andre DeGraff, Rev. Que English, Dr. Frederick Harris, moderator.

Photo by George Conklin.

NEW YORK — It’s clear that the so-called “Black Church” cannot be defined as one single thing. Especially in a city as large and diverse as New York, black churches embrace a broad range of issues, passions, challenges and concerns – from the traditional work of practical community organizing and preaching of traditional values and theology to the youthful passion of the Black Lives Matter movement with its call for full inclusion of LGBTQ members.

Sitting before a packed room at the Interchurch Center on a spring day in New York City, the panelists represented a rich range of views and experience with these issues. As moderator, Dr. Frederick Harris, Director of the Center on African-American Politics and Society at Columbia University, posed some thought-provoking questions on how African-American churches are responding to a range of issues from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, to the upcoming national elections.

Read more...

Presenter introduces digital tools to improve journalists’ storytelling

By Deb Christian

Daniel Sieberg introduced RCC members to Google NewsLab at RCC 2016.

Photo by George Conklin.

NEW YORK — Religion Communicators Council national convention attendees were treated to a "three-fer" when Daniel Sieberg presented a Friday afternoon keynote. Sieberg, global head of media outreach with the Google News Lab, revealed new digital tools to improve storytelling, offered a sneak peek at news reporting's future, and challenged our thinking about the relevance and value of virtual reality for communications.

Sieberg discussed the tools, data and program pillars Google News Lab has available to help communicators tell the stories of the news. Along with the tools, Google News Lab trains journalists to best use them. The site g.co/newslab has a curriculum with 35 lessons targeted to journalists. Media partnership training networks working with different organizations have been created.

Read more...

Media panelists offer tips for coverage

By Katherine Kerr, APR

Hussein Saddique, Kim Lawton, Rachel Zoll, and Debra Mason served as members of the media panel.

Photo by George Conklin.

NEW YORK — Members of the media panel for the “Re-Imagining the Religion Beat” plenary offered several suggestions to increase the likelihood of getting media coverage at a time when news holes for faith-related stories has shrunk.

Among the recommendations were:

  • Be responsive.
  • Anticipate potentially newsworthy stories, including those related to breaking news.
  • Have background on your organization readily available.
  • Have a spokesperson available.
  • Keep audio and visuals in mind when pitching stories or creating media events.
  • Don’t “stalk” a reporter or editor after sending a press release.

Read more...

Grim says faith is good for the economy, peace is good for business

By Kelly Fanning

Brian Grim uses Tanenbaum Center data to talk about 1/3 of faith folks discriminated in US workplace.

Photo by Bud Heckman.

NEW YORK — Brian J. Grim, Ph.D., author of The Price of Freedom Denied and president and founder of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (RFBF), presented an information-rich argument that faith is good for the economy, and, unless you are in the bullet and bomb making industry, peace is good for business.

Despite countertrends in the U.S. and elsewhere, Grim found while at the Pew Research Center that “the world is overwhelmingly religious or religiously affiliated. More than 8 in 10 people today have a faith, and that is predicted to increase. The world’s population of religiously unaffiliated is projected to shrink.”

Read more...

RCC members hear updates, re-elect Tom at annual meeting

By Jim Cullumber

Casey Tom was re-elected president of the Religion Communicators Council.

Photo by George Conklin.

NEW YORK — Casey Tom, general manager of Faith for Today of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, was re-elected president of the Religion Communicators Council at the council’s annual convention in New York April 1.

She will be joined on the RCC Executive Committee by the Rev. Bud Heckman, vice president and executive director of the International Shinto Foundation, New York; Pamela Burdine, secretary, from Louisville, Kentucky; Katherine Kerr, treasurer and president of Polaris Non-Profit Solutions of Georgetown, Texas; and Deb Christian, past president from Mesquite, Texas.

Read more...

RCC awards excellence in religion communication at New York City ceremony

By Jeff Huett, APR

NEW YORK — At a time when public discourse is in most need of a change in tone, some of those recognized for excellence by the Religions Communications Council Thursday night said they hoped their work would help do just that.

DeRose-Hinkhouse Best of Class Award winners.

Photo by George Conklin.

Simran Jeet Singh, a member of the RCC representing the Sikh Coalition, said he hoped the words he shared as part of a best-of-class-winning piece called the “Attack on Jewish Community is an Attack on Us All” would be taken to heart.

“It is important for us to recognize that the disease of bigotry plagues all of modern America and that we must be proactive to prevent it from infecting our own homes,” Singh wrote in his piece, which won the Writing for Publication class.

The RCC handed out awards recognizing excellence in nearly 60 categories of communications and public relations in New York City at its annual convention. The DeRose-Hinkhouse award recognizes the achievements of RCC members who demonstrate excellence as religion communicators. The awards honor the late Victor DeRose and Paul M. Hinkhouse, who were leading lithographers in New York City.

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Navigating multi-religious activism

By Christie R. House

NEW YORK (March 31, 2016) — The annual convention of the Religion Communicators Council opened today in New York City with a panel discussion focused on how religious communities can come together to make headway on key issues of social justice.

Laurie Goodstein moderated the panel discussion.

Photo by George Conklin.

With Laurie Goodstein, national religion correspondent for the New York Times, serving as moderator, women from a number of different faith traditions who have deep experience working within and across faith communities considered how faith communities might navigate through religious differences, find commonality, and bring about change. The Many Paths and Many More Intersections: Navigating Multi-religious Activism panel included Katherine Marshall, Joyce Dubensky, Linda Sarsour, and Katharine Rhodes Henderson.

Read more...

Forbes opens 2016 RCC Convention with a song, some words of praise and a challenge

By Deb Christian

The Rev. Dr. James Forbes

Photo by George Conklin.

NEW YORK — The Rev. Dr. James Forbes, minister emeritus of The Riverside Church in New York, opened the 2016 Religion Communicators Council National Convention with a bit of song, some words of praise, then a challenge to the 120-plus attendees.

First, Forbes offered a song about happiness and heaven that he often shared with his young granddaughter. He noted that he hoped the words of the song set the mood, tone and perspective on life for his audience. He told RCC members that they were the bearers of a legacy of faith and that what they do in their communications' jobs will impact both their individual faith groups and the nation.

Faith communicators take the "data" of God's love, justice, mercy, and truth that they receive then mix it, write it, video it, print it. They will see the legacy of faith and give it away. "If you do that – give it away – then you'll be happy," he added.

Read more...


2016 Convention News

Follow #rcc16nyc on Twitter for live updates

Hacking a Better Future for Interfaith Cooperation

Religion Communicators Council Convention: Faith-based Communications: Bridges, Avenues, and Intersections (2016)

Religion Communicators Council Handa Fellows mark first gathering at 2016 RCC Convention

Strategic partnerships key to humanitarian effectiveness

Fundraising is everyone’s job, RCC leader says in workshop

Presenter gives tips on writing with a purpose

The AP, NPR, CNN among winners of RCC’s annual Wilbur Awards

Diverse group of religion communicators gathered to build bridges, find avenues and discover intersections

United Nations discovers that faith-based organizations also support sustainable development goals

Panel explores intersection of faith and creative work

Election year and beyond: Social and political activism in the city’s black churches

Presenter introduces digital tools to improve journalists’ storytelling

Media panelists offer tips for coverage

Grim says faith is good for the economy, peace is good for business

RCC members hear updates, re-elect Tom at annual meeting

RCC awards excellence in religion communication at New York City ceremony

Navigating multi-religious activism

Groups pursue interfaith activism for social change on WACC site

Forbes opens 2016 RCC Convention with a song, some words of praise and a challenge

3 news organizations win 2016 Wilbur Award for coverage of pope

Intersection of faith and global community is focus of RCC 2016 Saturday keynote

Sieberg, top journalists among leaders of spring Religion Communicators convention

Religion communicators add more speakers for NYC spring conference

Impressive cast of presenters to headline spring Religion Communicators convention

Ecumenical and interfaith leader slated for special Wilbur Award


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