Mississippi garners UMAC honors


By Linda Green
United Methodist News Service


CHARLESTON. S.C. — Communications pieces produced by Mississippi Conference organizations continue to be among the best in the denomination, based on results of a recent contest.


The Word from Connectional Ministries quarterly newsletter and Between the Ashes and Alleluias Lenten devotional guide received Best of Division honors, and The United Methodist Hour collected several first place awards in the United Methodist Association of Communicators contest.


In the newsletter category, The Difference published by the UM Hour and The Word were named the best in their respective divisions. Kim Kay, Samantha Lang, Keith Tonkel and Shane Stanford were cited for The Difference, while Gwen Green, communications director for the Mississippi Conference, was cited for The Word. Green was also recognized in the special publications category for Between the Ashes and Alleluias. She edited both publications.

The United Methodist Hour finished first in its division in the television/cable category and the radio category.


“We’re just excited about where God is leading the ministry,” said the Rev. Shane Stanford, executive director and preacher for the UM Hour. “These awards are validation for the things we’ve been doing. We have a great staff that does good work.”


The awards were announced at the group’s annual awards banquet held Oct. 25. The association is a voluntary professional organization that provides recognition, fellowship and vocational enrichment for the more than 145 professional and volunteer communicators of the church. In addition, Jane Dennis, editor of the Arkansas United Methodist newspaper, was named the denomination’s 2007 “communicator of the year.”


During its meeting, the association also inducted three veteran communicators into the organization’s Hall of Fame: Lynn DeMichele, former director of communications for the Indiana Area; the Rev. J. Richard Peck, editor of UMMen magazine and the former editor of the Daily Christian Advocate, Newscope and Circuit Rider; and the Rev. Paul Widicus, former director of communications for the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.


The communicator of the year award is given to the person who best exemplifies religious communication in The United Methodist Church. Hall of Fame induction recognizes the significant contributions to religion communications of individuals who are either retired or deceased.


Dennis has been involved in communications for the Arkansas Annual Conference for nearly 20 years. “I am floored,” Dennis told the banquet crowd of nearly 100 of her peers. “There are so many people out there who deserve this award, and I am so humbled and thankful to be a part of this group for so long.”


Dennis called it a “blessing to get to do what I get to do.”


Hall of Fame
Peck, of Nashville, is retired but still works with the churchwide Commission on United Methodist Men. His contributions to United Methodist communications span 42 years, including editing the United Methodist Book of Resolutions and writing articles for Interpreter magazine and United Methodist News Service. His career began in 1965 as an editor of the Council Highlights Newsletter for the Rhode Island Council of Churches.


He became communicator for the United Methodist New York Area in 1970 and held assignments with United Methodist Publishing House as well.


Widicus ended his career in conference communications in 2002 when he returned to the local church. He is the former director of communications for the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference and was associate director of communications in the former Southern Illinois conference. In 1995, the former Southern and Central Illinois conferences voted to merge, and Widicus played a key role in merging the communications resources of both. He was responsible for the conference’s first Web site and its volunteer video production team.


DeMichele was the communications director for Indiana United Methodists for 12 years before retiring in 2002. She served as both vice president and president of UMAC and helped create what is now paragraph 645 in the Book of Discipline that says “In each annual conference there shall be a commission on Communications or other structure to provide for these functions and maintain the connectional relationship.”