Publications of the Episcopal Church received many of the top awards at the annual convention of the Associated Church Press (ACP) in Indianapolis, April 27-30 under the theme, "Getting to the heart of our stories."
In the category for national and international newspapers, Episcopal Life not only took a total of 11 awards, it claimed more first-place awards, ACP's "Award of Excellence," than any other publication in this year's contest--a total of seven. It also received an honorable mention in the category Best-in-Class. TheCentral Florida Episcopalian, edited by Joe Thoma, also received an honorable mention for Best-in-Class.
First-place winners for the coveted Best-in-Class designation were: Anglican Advance (Episcopal Diocese of Chicago), for regional newspaper; The Anglican Journal (Toronto, Ontario), for international or national newspaper; The Banner (Christian Reformed Church), for general-interest denominational magazine; The Other Side (an independent, ecumenical publication in Philadelphia), general interest magazine that is not denominational;Image: A Journal of the Arts & Religion (an independent, ecumenical publication in Seattle), for special-interest magazine; Seeds for the Parish(Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Chicago), which won the newsletter category; ELCA News Service won in the news service category.
The judges said that Anglican Advance "provides well-written and well-edited articles that bring together local, regional, national, and international news and features in a nice balance." They said that the Central Florida paper "contains well-written stories, a good mix of news and features, and a variety of subjects pertinent to the reader. Its graphic presentation is excellent."
They said that The Anglican Journal features stories "from across the globe in a balanced mix…and delivers extremely well-written and well-reported stories on a fascinating variety of issues. Good layout and design support superb content." They said thatEpiscopal Life "honors the craft of writing and the diligence of good reporting in a solid mix of news, features, and opinion. A broad range of stories is offered on a daring mix of topics that are innovative and informative."
A total of 251 awards were given out in 40 categories to honor the best of 1,034 total entries. Of ACP's approximately 150 publication members, a total of 73 entered this year's contest honoring the best work of 2002. (For a complete list of awards go to the ACP web site at www.theacp.org.)
Shaping hearts and minds
Craig Dykstra, vice president of religion for the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment, said in his keynote that he was "a constant and avid reader" of the church press and a "happy funder of religious publications…I could not imagine life without you" because of the contributions those publications make.
He said that Lilly is concerned with the wellbeing of the church and tries to fund institutions that express hope and imagination. He noted the persistent public interest in spirituality, a search for a different more fulfilling kind of life, even though it is accompanied by some ambivalence about organized religion. Many people are concluding that "churches fail to be truly religious" and are preoccupied with other things. He warned that's an indictment the church must address.
The most pressing challenge, according to Dykstra, is whether it is possible to "describe a Christian way of life that can be lived with integrity. What would it look like? How would it be lived out? What does religion have to do with real life? " He is convinced that the Christian tradition "still has resources un-mined" and that new possibilities are emerging. Lilly tries to support those creative forces that contribute to vital ministry, producing a new generation of church leaders that could be a force for rebuilding the church.
"You are an indispensable force for the wellbeing of the church," he said. "Your role is to inform and shape the minds and hearts--and action--of the people of God and their churches."
The Lilly Endowment sponsored workshops on the opening day of the convention, sharing its research on trends in Christian practice and innovative programs that are making major contributions to religious life in America.
Community of professionals
The ACP elected Victoria Rebeck, director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, as president, and Jerry van Marter of the Presbyterian News Service as vice president.
Believed to be the oldest religious press association in North America, the Associated Church Press, founded in 1916, is a community of communication professionals brought together by faithfulness to their craft and by a common task of reflecting, describing, and supporting the life of faith and the Christian community. Among its purposes are: (1) To provide mutual support and encouragement, fostered by personal and professional relationships; (2) To promote higher standards of communication through professional growth opportunities and recognition of excellence; (3) To join in interfaith and public discourse with those who seek to build a more just society for all God's people.
Nearly 200 publications, websites, news services, and individuals are ACP members, representing a combined circulation of several million. Publication members from the U.S., Canada, and English-speaking communities abroad make up most of ACP's membership and represent the full diversity of Christian belief and practice.
--James Solheim is director of the Episcopal News Service.