Members of the United Methodist Association of Communicators gathered for the organization’s 2020 members meeting Friday May 15 via Zoom webinar. With the cancellation of the “Embrace Faith” annual gathering and the postponement of the United Methodist General Conference until 2021 because of COVID-19 safety restrictions, UMAC enlisted the help of GNTV Media Ministry and conducted its annual members meeting online.

“I think we all wish we were able to do this in person this year,” said Mark Doyal, communications director for the Michigan Conference. “As you know we first planned our meeting in March, in Washington, D.C., and then we moved it to May in Minneapolis, and instead we’re coming to you from basements and bedrooms and dining room and kitchen tables all across the USA.

“We figured that 2020 was going to be the year that The United Methodist Church changed forever,” Doyal continued. “We just didn’t think it would be a pandemic that did that. As communicators, we’re used to adapting quickly to unusual situations. UMAC is doing that too—thus, this first, historic online member meeting.”

The one-hour meeting began with greetings from Doyal and an opening prayer from outgoing chair emeritus Art McClanahan, retiring director of communications for the Iowa Conference. Business of the day included electing four current leadership team members to a second term, accepting the 2020 financial report and electing two new members to leadership.

Jessica Brodie (South Carolina), Carolyn Conover (Greater New Jersey), Jasmine Haynes (Mississippi) and Andra Stevens (Africa University) were all reelected to second terms, and the 2020 financial report was accepted.

Voting took place via secure online voting provided by GNTV. Each member of UMAC received a unique voter ID ahead of time as well as detailed voting instructions and a how-to video. Voters entered their unique codes before voting on each of the three ballots.

In her address to the members of UMAC, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of the Louisiana Conference thanked communicators for the crucial role they play in The United Methodist Church.

“You all have adapted—and you’ve adapted well,” said Harvey. “You’ve become teachers, you’ve become professors of communication, you’ve become televangelist consultants to our pastors, you’ve become armchair epidemiologists and prognosticators and people expect you to have all of the answers.

“We’re in uncharted territory. I’m thankful for you.”

Harvey, who is also the president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops and vice chair of the Commission on United Methodist Communications, reminded participants that times of crisis is when the church is at its best.

“This is when the connection becomes even more important for us. I pray we don’t forget how important this connection is.”

UMAC members elected Sybil Davidson, director of communications for the North Georgia Conference, and Todd Rossnagel, director of communications for the Louisiana Conference, as new members of the leadership team.

Around 175 people participated in the webinar and watched on Facebook Live, with 90 members voting.

Doyal also shared that UMAC is hoping to gather again in person in 2021 and working on adapting some of the planned 2020 sessions for online learning and fellowship. UMAC will also be hosting an orientation at General Conference 2021 as well as a hotel room block and working with United Methodist Communications and the General Conference commission to make sure communicators’ needs are met for the 2021 conference.

You can watch the video of the meeting on the UMAC Facebook page. Be sure to join us on Facebook Thursday May 21 at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) for our annual awards celebration!