|Communicators must help people overcome fear, executive says
Oct. 18, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Kathy Gilbert
The Rev. Larry Hollon encourages United Methodist communicators to help people overcome fear.
By Linda Green*
SAN ANTONIO (UMNS) — One of the most profound gifts the United
Methodist Church has to offer to a world living in fear is the assurance
that no one is abandoned by God or by the faith community.
The Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist
Communications, told more than 75 church communicators and editors that
no one should feel alone in society but that the fear of being alone is a
common trait many people share. This fear impacts the work of church
communicators, who are challenged to expand community in a world that
uses media to replace community, he said.
Church communicators must inspire community, inform community and
engage community, Hollon said during his Oct. 13 keynote speech to the
United Methodist Association of Communicators.
UMAC’s Oct. 13-15 annual meeting included workshops, an awards banquet and a roundtable discussion.
Hollon told the communicators that although fear is exploited in
advertising to motivate the purchase of products and to gain acceptance,
the hope provided by the church is “not ephemeral” or “self-serving.”
“I believe the role of the church today is, in part, to speak ... to the
fear of being left behind, or left alone, in a culture that excludes,
particularizes and isolates,” he said. The church enables the voices of
Christian communicators in the United Methodist Church to “say it does
not have to be this way.”
|A UMNS photo by Kathy Gilbert
Dana Jones, editor of Response magazine, talks about truth in religious journalism.
A primary function of United Methodist communicators is to tell
stories that transform the world and provide alternatives to ideas that
instill fear and result in isolation, division and broken community.
“Our task is to expand community,” not to just sustain organizations
and institutions, he said. While talking about the importance of
effective and formal ministries, he said, “institutional maintenance is
not the sole reason for us to communicate. We do it to inform
Christian communicators stand at the intersection of the concerns of
the world and the concerns of the church for the world, he said. The
intersection is the crossroads of culture and faith.
At this crossroad, church communications presents the emergence of a
new world, one that does not allow people “to be merely consumers who
withdraw into cocoons and live as if our only responsibility is to
ourselves and our own pleasures,” Hollon said. “We call people to be
more than consumers.”
The task of United Methodist communicators is to present an alternate
vision of what a “secular, material culture” offers as an inclusive
“Inclusiveness is more profound than diversity,” he said. “Diversity,
important as it is, emphasizes our uniqueness. Inclusiveness invites us
in despite of our differences,” and “is about our common humanity, not
about our cultural differences.”
In storytelling, United Methodist communicators not only document the
diversity of the human family, but reveal its underlying, common
humanity. “This is a remarkable gift to offer to a world that is
polarized and broken, confused and lost.”
In expanding and informing community, there must be collaboration
among Christian sectors to help people understand their place in the
world and their relationship to God.
“One of the greatest threats I see in the organizational life of the
church is the inability to collaborate on those concerns that people are
confronted with today,” Hollon noted. “This inability to collaborate
leaves us fragmented and weakened. Turf battles are usually about us,
not about the needs of the people whom we need to serve.”
Those needs are about quality of life and survival, but when church
entities seem more concerned about procedures, maintenance and
territories, the perception that emerges is that the church is
indifferent to people’s real-life concerns.
“It is not about us, it’s about serving a world that is broken, searching and yearning for connection.”
UMAC was created in 1973 to help church communicators stay informed
about developments in the industry and to promote dialogue and
discussion on technology and communication advocacy issues.
Love and truth in journalism was another focus the communicators
addressed. A panel of communicators from different areas of journalism
Responding to a question about there being a place for telling the
truth in religious journalism today, Jeanean Merkel, president of the
Religion Communications Council, said, “The real question comes in
Dana Jones, editor of Response, the magazine of the Women’s
Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, told
colleagues that “what is truth is at the heart of the conversation.” The
challenge she said is to fuse “our” words and images with grace and
According to Sarah Wilke, chief executive of UMR Communications,
church communicators have the responsibility to educate, inform and move
people to action, but communicators should not give people more than
they are capable of hearing.
But, “there is so much truth that needs to be told, and sometimes
there is so much truth that people are afraid of it,” said Kristin
Knudson Harris, a communications staff person with the United Methodist
Commission on Status and Role of Women.
In other action, the communicators:
- Elected David Malloy, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference
communicator, vice president; Mark Rehn, Western Pennsylvania Conference
communicator, treasurer; Jeneane Jones, California-Nevada Conference
communicator, director; and Fred Koenig, Missouri Conference
Communicator, director. Erik Alsgaard, Baltimore Washington Conference
communicator, remains president.
- Welcomed its two Helping Hand Scholarship winners — Chrystal P.
Henderson of Birmingham, Ala., and Carmelia L. Matias of the Philippines
— to the annual meeting.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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