The best of the best in religious communicating were honored at the 2012 Wilbur Awards April 14 during the Religion Communicators Council (RCC) national convention in Philadelphia.

The awards banquet, underwritten this year by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its Presbyterian Disaster Assistance ministry, celebrated professionals in categories including television and cable documentary, feature film (drama), blogs and magazines.

Winners this year included the feature film The Help, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett and the screenplay and direction by Tate Taylor; the television and cable documentary “Serving Life” from writer, producer and director Lisa Cohen; and the book Miles To Go by Richard Paul Evans. 

“The Wilbur awards are unique in that they recognize the value and importance of public and secular media and its intersection with religious issues of the day,” said Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness, director of the Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“Throughout the centuries, communicators have often brought to light critical issues that demand engagement by the religious community. And often the faith community has borne witness to realities that the rest of the world might have otherwise ignored,” she said.

The interfaith RCC is the oldest association of religion communicators in North America ― only the Associated Church Press, which is limited to Christian communicators and focuses more on journalistic achievement, is older and larger ― and its Wilbur Awards recognize excellence in communicating religious faith and values in the public arena and encourage understanding among faith groups.

Among the most famous past recipients of the Wilbur Award are former President Jimmy Carter, Bill Moyers and Steven Spielberg. The award is named for long-time PC(USA) communications  executive Marvin Wilbur, who also helped head the RCC for many years.

Wilbur Award recipients often thank the organization for recognizing that their work has worth and meaning, said Shirley Struchen, RCC executive director. There are so many really good movies, books, television programs and other communication forms out there, and “we need to reward them so that we will continue to have them.”

“When I got the email (about the Wilbur) I was elated,” said Anthony Laudato, who won for his CBS News Sunday Morning story “Spreading the Word.” The piece he produced with reporter Daniel Sieberg focuses on how communities of faith and religious groups are using the Web and mobile applications.

How to do ministry online is a huge question, and churches will continue to grapple with this issue, said Laudato. “It was great to talk to people who are wrestling with these issues.”

Winning the Wilbur “reaffirmed my faith in journalism,” he said. “It was a thrill to have my work recognized.”

Toya Richards, a student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, writes frequently for Presbyterian News Service.