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

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