From the Worldwide Faith News archives

RCC 2000 reflects world's diversity

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 13 Apr 2000 15:09:59

April 13, 2000	News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York

CHICAGO (UMNS) - Whether displaying expressions of faith, demonstrating
methods of communications or relaying stories that need to be told,
participants in Religious Communications Congress 2000 reflected the
diversity of the world today.

While many of the 1,150 participants in the March 29-April 1 event were
Catholic or Protestant - including nearly 200 United Methodists - many other
religions were represented. Those other traditions were included as part of
the program.

Also on hand were nine global partners who had been invited on scholarship.
They were among the more than 100 communicators representing 23 countries at
RCC 2000. 

Brad Pokorny, editor of One World, the newsletter of the Baha'i
International Community, said that the dozen Baha'is who attended the
congress felt welcomed and included. 

"In general, there was an atmosphere of genuine interfaith ecumenism that
went beyond mere tolerance to a real sense of harmony and consonance,"
Pokorny added. "I think in some ways religious communicators may well be out
in front of their congregations and their leadership on this issue."  

Reflecting diversity through workshop and plenary speakers, international
participation and a broad spectrum of faith traditions and theological
perspectives was a goal of the RCC 2000 planning committee, according to
Shirley Struchen, the United Methodist who served as chairperson for the

"I'm thrilled with the response we've received on evaluation forms and via
e-mail," Struchen said. "Over and over, participants applauded exposure to
world culture and learning about the global implications of communications."

Under the theme, "Faith Stories in a Changing World," the once-a-decade
congress got off to a rousing start with an opening banquet that featured
the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Challenging religious communicators to "take light
into dark places" and "do bold things," he urged people of faith to be
activists, not mere observers.

"Your task is to do more than record the changing world but be agents that
change the world," Jackson declared.

The next morning, the Rev. Patrick Anthony, a Catholic priest from St. Lucia
who is Caribbean regional president of the World Association for Christian
Communication, warned participants to avoid seeing people only as images.

Instead, religious communicators could become the humanizing conscience of
the media. "As we seek to communicate, people must not be transformed into
images but sown into the hearts of human beings, never compromised," Anthony
said. "We must recognize that what is important is not the almighty dollar
but the human soul."

The Rev. Martin Marty, the renowned theologian and historian, suggested that
the task of religious communicators is not to be at home with the secular
order of things but to introduce the element of faith.

According to Marty, the secular and religious worlds are not separate but
interactive on many levels. He noted that voices of faith, religion and
spirituality must penetrate not just one public, but many sub-publics.

Two separate panels of communicators discussed the difficulties involved in
"sharing our stories" in today's world. A panel of secular journalists
addressed the challenge of accurately describing the ever-changing dynamics
of religion and spiritual life in North America. Another panel outlined the
barriers to full global communications, ranging from restrictive policies of
government-owned media to geographic obstacles to the lack of technological

But not all was talk or spoken stories during the congress. Ken Medema, a
globe-trotting concert artist based in the San Francisco area, used both
composed and improvised music to address themes of love, justice and the
idea that there should be room at the table for everyone. The performance
art of Cynthia Winton-Henry, Phil Porter and their Wing IT! ensemble
combined dance, theater, music, comedy, improvisation and theology.

Ted Swartz and Lee Eshleman of Harrisonburg, Va., -- otherwise known as Ted
and Lee - delighted their audience with their comedic approach to familiar
gospel stories. Ella Jenkins, an award-winning children's performer from
Chicago, demonstrated the effectiveness of using simple chants and rhythms.

Workshop topics and speakers again reflected the diversity of the gathering.
Judy Corey, a United Church of Christ minister and story specialist from
White Cloud, Mich., talked about the art of storytelling and how prejudices
and differences can be transcended by sharing stories. Albert van den
Heuvel, president of the World Association of Communication, discussed how
communicators must face the challenge of connecting with those parts of the
world that have been left out of the "informational age." 

The concluding banquet began as Munira Sen of India, Hillary Nicholson of
Jamaica and Scott Collins of Dallas charged participants with the task of
bringing the many faith stories of RCC 2000 back home with them. 

Emmy-Award winning journalist Mary Alice Williams and Susan Frank, executive
vice president and general manager of Odyssey, a Henson and Hallmark
Entertainment Network and the evening's sponsor, spoke before the
hand-clapping part of the evening began. Chicago's Thompson Community
Singers literally rocked the ballroom, warming up the crowd for a special
performance by gospel singer Yolanda Adams.  

# # #

United Methodist News Service
Photos and stories also available at:

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home