Uniting Church honoured at the ARPAs

Uniting Church honoured at the ARPAs

Sydney played host to Annual Australasian Religious Press Associations’ conference and awards night on the 2-4 September. The conference began on Friday night with the ABC’s John Cleary moderating a discussion on the future of the church, and throughout the weekend the agenda covered a wide variety of topics. In a record number of entrants, over 374 entries were submitted to the 22 categories in the lead up to the Awards.

This year the prestigious Gutenberg Award was awarded to Graeme Cole, the Public Affairs Manager for Wesley Mission. Each year the Gutenberg is awarded to a Christian media organisation or a person as the highest recognition of the Christian media association. Last year the recipient of the award was Melbourne Anglican Media.

In his citation to Mr Cole, President of ARPA, Peter Bentley mentioned that “this is a personal recognition for Graeme, who has provided nearly thirty years of ministry in Christian media and communication, serving the Anglican Church as Director of Communications for Anglicare NSW, Frontier Services as National Public Affairs Manager and since 2001, Wesley Mission as Public Affairs Manager.

“In essence Graeme exemplifies the best of Christian reporting,” noted Mr Bentley. “Grounded in a commitment to justice and truth founded in personal integrity. At all times, and in difficult times, his personal faith points to the undergirding power and grace that is provided by God for all those who are called to serve. Graeme’s ministry is not a venture or service for himself, it is a mission to point to the good works that are being done in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Graeme Cole has won 16 ARPA awards. In his acceptance speech Mr Cole said “”Christian journalists must never lose their ability to be brave, to be storytellers and to be the bridge between the church and the world. We are communicators but we are also translators. Our job is one of translation of building bridges across the cultural divide.

“In a world dominated by the numerics and marketing speak, we must never lose sight that we are people of ideas and relationships. The marketing rhetoric of our time says content is king – but what is the quality of that content? It is a mile wide and an inch deep. We must embrace the future of new media and technology but we must never be comfortable with pouring concrete into editorial holes because it is simply demanded. Our job is to bring context, analysis, understanding and meaning. That is the essence of our trade and our profession. That is what we bring to the table. We must always ask ‘who says?’ and ‘why’? ”

Queensland’s Communications’ Ashley Thompson was the recipient of the ARPA Ramon Williams scholarship. In her acceptance speech she talked frankly about social media and the churches responsibility to be involved in this space.

“New data from Australian digital marketing agency, Reload Media reveals that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. That is 150 micro moments of connecting to content. Digital isn’t “new” anymore; it’s a solidified reality of everyday life.

“I am excited about the future of the church and ARPA. It may not exist how we knew it or know it today but it will be better because God has promised that he works for the good of those who love Him and that His plans are to prosper, not to harm,” said Ms Thompson of the award.

Uniting Church Queensland Synod communications Journey magazine was awarded in three categories – winning Gold for Best Profile Story “A Quantum Leap of Faith”, Bronze for Best Theological Article “Marriage: We’re Talking About It” and Silver for Best Design Magazine — and The Uniting Church’s Victoria and Tasmania Synod’s Crosslight was awarded Silver for Best Design Website and Highly Commended in the Best New Writer category for Tim Lam’s article “Ice – Beyond the Headlines.” South Australia’s Synod Uniting Church publication New Times was honoured with a Silver Award for Best Original Photography.

The weekend conference dealt with a number of pertinent issues around the importance of storytelling, a panel discussion about where the church might be in 2024, the agility of the church in the digital space and whether we are adequately equipped moving toward an ever changing digital future, and also how we can effectively communicate understand the needs of those with disabilities and mental illness.

(Pictured) President of ARPA Peter Bentley awards Graeme Cole with the Gutenberg Award 

Adrian Drayton



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