Awards honor United Methodist communicators

The United Methodist Association of Communicators named Mark Doyal as “Communicator of the Year” and inducted the Rev. Joan G. La Barr into its Hall of Fame.

The two United Methodist communicators were among more than 80 honored Jan. 20 during the organization’s meeting, held before the Pre-General Conference briefing. The professional association for those working and volunteering in United Methodist communications presented 10 best-in-class awards.

Doyal is the director of communications in the Michigan Area, which encompasses the soon-to-merge Detroit and West Michigan conferences. He comes to communications ministry after years of running an advertising agency.

He “brings a non-anxious presence, wisdom and guidance that has been described as invaluable,” said the Rev. Arthur McClanahan, Iowa Conference’s director of communications and 2013 Communicator of the Year.

He is someone who makes the extra effort to tell the church’s story, McClanahan said, recalling how his friend once stuck his neck and head out of a moving car to capture important video.

Doyal has guided church leaders in communicating about crises, whether they are the church’s response to environmental disaster or all-too-human controversy. He also has helped conferences move toward unification and helped Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey make the difficult announcement that she planned to retire because of health concerns

“I can’t recount all the many ways he has helped this area,” Kiesey said. “He is a great gift to me personally, to the area, and to The United Methodist Church.”

The same afternoon he won Communicator of the Year, Doyal also won a first-place recognition for his multimedia presentation “Conversations on the Journey,” about the bishop’s listening sessions across Michigan.

“I’ve said this was the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s also the most rewarding job I’ve ever had,” he told his fellow communicators.

La Barr, who retired in 2010 as North Texas Conference’s director of communications, began her career in journalism and public relations before embarking on a second career as United Methodist communicator and ordained pastor. Even in retirement, she has continued to serve the church, serving as an interim district superintendent and helping United Methodist Communications.

She coordinated the 2016 General Conference Guide available to participants at the pre-General Conference briefing.

“It was an honor to follow in the footsteps of such a dedicated communications professional as Joan La Barr,” said the Rev. Sheron C. Patterson, North Texas’ current communications officer. “She is compassionate, dedicated and still on fire about telling the good news of United Methodism.”

Fred Koenig, editor for the Missouri Conference, presented La Barr with her Hall of Fame honor. He noted La Barr’s commitment to serving wherever she was needed.

“I remember once when I asked Joan about her retirement plans, she was waiting until after the completion of upcoming general and jurisdictional conference,” Koenig recalled. “I thought to myself, ‘I would retire early to avoid going to those.’”

La Barr spoke glowingly of the fellowship communicators have. “I just want you to know that anything I’ve been able to accomplish in ministry, in communications and in other areas, has happened by the grace of God, of course, but also because of your support.”

The complete list of award recipients

 News media contact: Call (615) 742-5470 or email [email protected].

Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at

Sign up for our newsletter!

Human Rights
A view of the U.S. Supreme Court. United Methodists have varied reactions after the Supreme Court on June 24 overturned Roe v. Wade, holding that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion. Photo courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol.

United Methodists react to end of Roe v. Wade

United Methodists alternately expressed fear and contentment with the U.S. Supreme Court decision released June 24 that holds there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion.
Mission and Ministry
Tim Tanton (center, in red), chief news and information officer for United Methodist Communications, shares updates with African communicators and other UMCom staff during the 2019 General Conference. World Press Freedom Day, observed May 3, commemorates journalists and highlights the difficulties they face while reporting truth. File photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News

World Press Freedom Day and the church

Tim Tanton with United Methodist News talks about giving voice to the voiceless and why freedom of information is essential not only for society but for the church.
The Rev. Tom Berlin (left) presents a copy of his book, “Courage,” to Massachusetts National Guard Chaplain Chad McCabe in the chapel at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. McCabe, whose unit was assigned to help provide security at the U.S. Capitol after the January riot, contacted Wesley Seminary asking for Bibles, novels and board games for troops stationed there. Photo by Lisa Helfert for Wesley Theological Seminary. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Church responds to chaplain's call to help soldiers

A National Guard chaplain got Bibles, games and 150 copies of a new book about courage when he turned to Wesley Theological Seminary for help keeping soldiers occupied in Washington in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection.