Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Columbia Union Conference communicators: Kevin Krueger, WGTS; LaTasha Hewitt, Allegheny East Conference; V. Michelle Bernard, Columbia Union Conference; Celeste Ryan Blyden, Columbia Union; Jessica Beans, Kettering College; Andre Hastick, Chesapeake Conference; Heidi Shoemaker, Ohio Conference, Cheryl McKy, Adventist HealthCare; Debra Anderson, Potomac Conference; and Ricardo Bacchus, Columbia Union. Photo by Pieter Damsteegt

Adventist Communicators “Build Bridges” at Portland Convention

Story by Kimberly Luste Maran, NAD Communication / Photos by NAD Communication

Although a cool fall rain streamed outside for most of the event, spirits were bright, minds were eager, and conversations were lively at the 2017 Society of Adventist Communicators (SAC) convention held in the Portland, Oregon, area on Oct. 19-21. A blend of more than 250 professionals and students attended communication workshops, expert panel discussions, area media tours, special worship services, and an Adventist film screening — all geared toward “Building Bridges” of communication with other Adventists and within the community.

“What I enjoy most about SAC are the opportunities it provides students and the variety of sessions and talks offered,” says Danica Eylenstein, senior communication major with an emphasis in emerging media and a minor in English at Union College in Lincoln, Neb., and Golden Cords editor-in-chief and The Clocktower news editor. “The convention provides a learning opportunity outside of the typical classroom environment and offers a great time for networking.”

Eylenstein, who attended last year’s convention, also appreciated the Friday breakout session by keynote speaker Kem Meyer and the Sabbath morning sermon from Terry Johnsson. “Both talks were encouraging, informative, and relevant, while maintaining the audience's full attention,” Eylenstein says.

“My favorite part of SAC is the people,” says SAC president Tammy Fisher, communication director for the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. “Social Media is great for keeping in touch, yet nothing beats sitting around a table and talking, looking people in the eye, and connecting over work and the Adventist faith.”

During the Sabbath morning worship service attendees donated 919 new pairs of socks for Portland’s homeless as attendees filled red shopping bags and 12 baskets with their donations. In this drive coordinated by Adventist Health, the donated socks were handed off to a representative in attendance from Portland Rescue Mission.

“So often church groups arrive in a city for a convention — we gain knowledge and insight and then we leave without impacting the local community in a positive way,” says Dan Weber, director of Communication for the North American Division and executive director of SAC. “We are so glad for the opportunity to partner with a local organization that is providing for the underserved population of Portland.”

Another highlight from the event included a panel discussion on crisis communication. The dialogue centered around the convention theme, “Building Bridges,” and addressed how several Adventist communicators have handled crises that have impacted our organizations — schools, conferences, hospitals, and local churches. The discussion provided practical tips on how to navigate the unthinkable. Case studies included how communicators dealt with institutional closings, media inquiries, and tragedy.

“When a crisis occurs, administrators should be able to look to the communicators on their team to help the organization address the situation,” said panelist Celeste Ryan Blyden, vice president for Strategic Communication and Public Relations for the Columbia Union Conference. Blyden, who is also the author of Crisis Boot Camp, emphasized the importance of knowing how to respond, what questions to ask, and what steps to take. “Our goal is to help our organizations respond empathically and effectively.”

The three-day event culminated with an awards banquet where almost 90 certificates were distributed to both professionals and students for communication projects in several disciplines: written word/print media; spoken word (radio/podcast); video (broadcast and web); design; and campaign (advertising and promotions). The Voice of Prophecy’s Discovery Mountain radio series with promotional materials garnered the Award of Excellence; Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church’s young adult testimonial videos, filmed in Takoma Park, Maryland, received the Reger Smith Cutting Edge Award. These award recipients were chosen from the best in class from each category.

Other top honors go to Jason Busch, Texas Conference Communication director, Young Professional Award; J. J. Reynolds, Pacific Union College, Student Award; and David Bullock, Walla Walla University, Department of Communications and Languages chair, Lifetime Achievement Award.

“There were so many great projects submitted this year,” says Fisher. “I’m excited for the future of Adventist communication on all our media platforms!”

Fisher, who completed her term as president at the conclusion of this year’s convention, is ready to welcome new board members. “My dad always told me to be the best you could be, whatever you are doing. He also said that you are replaceable. I know the new board is made up of fantastic people who will lead SAC to a bright future.”

SAC’s new president is Libna Stevens, assistant director of Communication for the Inter-American Division with headquarters in Miami, Fla. Fisher moves to the past-president board role.

Next year’s event will be held on Oct. 18-20 at the new NAD headquarters in Columbia, Maryland. Theme and schedule will be determined by the board during the early part of 2018. Visit for more about the 28-year-old organization and periodic updates on the upcoming convention.

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