We’re here to serve with purpose, to have passion in work that we do to spread the Gospel, and to build partnerships with communicators,” said Libna Stevens, president of the Society of Adventist Communicators (SAC), about the 29th convention.
Nearly 300 dedicated professionals and eager students attended the annual convention, which was hosted at the headquarters of the North American Division (NAD) in Columbia, Maryland, October 18-20, 2018.
Stevens’ statement unpacked the convention’s new tagline, “Purpose. Passion. Partnership.” The tagline reflects the organization’s clarified vision — “to expand and strengthen our global network by developing leaders who pursue excellence in communication.”
“We wanted to highlight that we have a purpose to be part of this mission of spreading the Gospel. Whoever we are, whatever responsibilities we have, we need to make sure that our identity is focused on that,” continued Stevens, who is also the assistant communication director at the Inter-American Division in Miami, Florida.
“We have to do it with passion because we care. We need to be passionate about God’s Church and our role in communicating. In addition, we need to focus on networking because we’re all on the same big team.”
“I hope by the time we’re done, you’ll each have 40 new networking relationships established,” said Daniel Weber, SAC executive director, and NAD communication director, during announcements.
Ivan Ruiz-Knott, a second-year board member of SAC, who also attended the convention as an exhibitor, spoke on the necessity of networking, especially when it comes to creativity.
“Without a place like SAC, it’s [easy] to create in a vacuum and not have a lot of feedback. It’s good to have this community,” said Ruiz-Knott, principal at Types & Symbols, which showcased its redesigned Conflict of the Ages series by Ellen G. White, co-founder of the Adventist Church.
“With Adventism, there are a lot of close connections. The two degrees of separation from everybody is something we talk about often. But, even though that is the case, you can’t always communicate with those people easily,” continued Ruiz-Knott. “Having events like this where all of those people come together is a really great way to reconnect to see what’s happening and share what you’re doing. Face-to-face communication is always fantastic.”
Young Adult Spotlight
The three-day convention featured professional development workshops; a presentation by Adventist Health on its revamped brand identity; a “TechTalk,” which highlighted the “must-have” gadgets of the year; a Q&A session with Dan Jackson, president of NAD; tours of local museums, a local television station, and the local NPR affiliate radio station; and an unprecedented keynote presentation for the SAC convention.
“Every year we decide who we want to be our keynote presenter,” said Weber to attendees. “We said, ‘What if we pick people you may not know about who are doing some really cool things?’ We decided to feature some younger people who work for the Church, or don’t work directly for the Church, to help elevate their platform.”
The keynote presenters were Kaleb Eisele, creator of “Humans of Adventism,” a social media storytelling, community-building ministry; Erica Jones, assistant director of NAD women’s ministries, and director of “Gorgeous2God” ministries, an online safe-space for girls to ask difficult questions about various topics, including sexuality, dating, and suicide; Emily Long, founder and editor-in-chief of the 715 magazine, which provides an avenue of expression for those on unconventional journeys with God; and Justin Khoe, creator of “That Christian Vlogger,” a YouTube ministry that helps viewers “experience faith in the first person.”
Each speaker was given approximately 20 minutes to discuss their ministry and answer questions. At the end of Khoe’s presentation, one audience member raised her hand to say, “Your blog is the reason why I’m still in the Church.”
Communicating the Bigger Picture
The Sabbath programming was untraditional, much like the keynote presentation. The Friday evening and Sabbath morning schedules were coordinated by the Columbia Union. The programs featured a total of six speakers and two musical performances — the Takoma Academy Camerata, and 9- and 12-year-olds Jana and Gabriella Apola, who played the violin.
Celeste Ryan Blyden, vice president for strategic communication and public relations for the Columbia Union Conference and editor of the Visitor, tasked the six speakers to share how they communicate God through their ministries. The speakers included Michael Speegle, senior pastor of New Hope Church in Fulton, Maryland; Catherine Nyameino Ontita, director of communication for the East Kenya Union; Tim Madding, senior pastor of Beltsville Church in Beltsville, Maryland; Jarilyn Conner, communication professor for Washington Adventist University; Joseph Khabbaz, youth and young adult pastor of Sligo Church in Takoma Park, Maryland; and Ann Roda, vice president for mission integration and spiritual care of Adventist HealthCare.
“Those of us whom God has given voice — whether it’s through an e-newsletter, blog, or if our conferences or unions hired us to do videos, run magazines, whatever avenue — God has given us the opportunity. [I hope] we will use it [to communicate Him],” said Blyden. “We’re only here and given this call for such a time as this, and then it will be someone else’s turn. So, while we have this moment, what are you and I going to do?”
The convention concluded with an awards ceremony that highlighted 31 of the year’s best content production by Adventist professionals and students in the following categories: writing, design, video, spoken word, and campaign.
SAC’s five top awards were given to the following:
Student Award – Sheann Brandon, Southern Adventist University alum.
Young Professional Award – Heather Thompson-Day, assistant professor of communication for Andrews University.
Award of Excellence – Walla Walla University Brand Refresh.
Cutting Edge Award – Shane Hochstetler, “Forgiven to Forgive,” Gulf States Camp Meeting Campaign. Hochstetler also won awards for Design: Websites – Best in Class – Gulf States Conference Website (www.gscsda.org), and Campaign – Best in Class – “Forgiven to Forgive” (Gulf States Conference Camp Meeting).
Lifetime Achievement Award – Martin Butler, cofounder of SAC’s predecessor, SSAC – the Southern Society of Adventist Communicators.
In addition to the top five awards, the Carolina Conference won Best in Class for Design: Interactive – Carolina Adventist App; and Spoken Word: Podcast – Walking Free: Russian Olympian Interview.
Thirty students from Southern Adventist University and three professors, Stephen Ruf, Pablo Fernandez, and Natalia Lopez-Thismon, attended the SAC Convention. SAU student, faculty, and staff awards included the following.
Best in Class
“The Dennetta Franks Story”
By Alva James-Johnson, assistant professor, SAU School of Journalism/Communication, as published in the Columbus, Georgia, Ledger-Enquirer.
“Inside the Bible,” as broadcast on Hope Channel
Pablo Fernandez, producer and assistant professor in the School of Journalism/Communication.
“Southern’s Response to Harvey”
Natalia Perez, as published in the Southern Accent, September 2017.
Writing: Feature (Longform)
Best in Class
Southern Accent “Race Relations Issue,” as published February 2018
Natalia Perez, editor in chief; Brandon Beneche, managing editor; Tierra Hayes, news editor; Elena Anunciado, layout designer; and Rachel Brouhard, layout designer.
Writing: Feature (Longform)
“God Chuckles,” an article published in SAU’s Columns magazine by Sheann Brandon and Janell Hullquist, Columns editor.
:60 TV Commercial for Glaceau’s Smartwater, by Isa Tavares, as produced in Digital Storytelling class, Winter 2018.
Also representing Adventist education at the 2018 convention were 18 students; two professors, Dwayne Cheddar and Kyna Hinson; and one staff member, Thamar Pericles, all from Oakwood University.
“I’ve been blessed,” said Weber during his closing remarks, “having the opportunity to meet all these people, these wonderful communicators, and to hear their stories. It’s been a huge blessing to get to know them a little better, and also see their commitment to God and to the Church.”
The 2019 Society of Adventist Communicators convention will take place next fall in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
is the news writer/news producer at the North American Division in Columbia, Maryland.
, Southern Tidings managing editor, contributed to this article.
Southern Union | December 2018