Religion Communicators Council honors 19 for work during 2021

NEW YORK — The Religion Communicators Council (RCC) announces 19 Wilbur Award winners to honor excellence by individuals in the secular media for communicating religious issues, values, and themes. As the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and tumultuous events rattle the globe, the 2022 Wilbur Awards competition offers a counter-narrative, providing hope, strength, and resilience. These awards were given for work completed in 2021 in the fields of print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and film.

The 2022 Wilbur Award winners highlight stories from across the country, and around the world. CBS News 60 Minutes looked in depth at the story of six Tongan teenagers who ran away from a boarding school on the island of Tonga in 1965, stole a boat, and shipwrecked on an uninhabited island. The story could have ended, but instead brought the boys closer together and forged ties that continue to today. Another winner was Michael Waters’ semi-autobiographical Children’s Book, “Liberty’s Civil Rights Road Trip” which serves as an early introduction to places, people, and events that transformed history. Non-fiction awards go to Netflix’s “The Starling,” which details how a battle with a territorial bird provides an unlikely avenue for a woman’s grief following a significant loss, as well as the courage to heal her relationships and rediscover her capacity for love. Mitch Albom also received an award for “The Stranger in the Lifeboat,” which explores the question, “What would happen if we called on God for help and God actually appeared?”

Other Wilbur winners include “With God On Our Side,” a documentary by RTÉ in Ireland; “Martini Judaism: for those who want to be shaken and stirred,” a featured blog with the Religion News Service; and reporting from Kevin Tibble’s NBC Nightly News exploration of the return to the pews after the pandemic.

The Wilbur program is coordinated by RCC New York Chapter president Ryan Koch. Of the entries, he noted, “I am in awe of the way the awardees were able to communicate religious and inspiring themes with dedication, grace, and sensitivity. It is an honor to associate with professionals such as these, and I look forward to collaborating, coordinating, and communicating with them long into the future.”

The awards ceremony took place virtually, on Friday, May 13, 2022, during the RCC’s annual convention, Bridging Cultural Divides: Better Ways to Tell Our Stories, held in conjunction with the Associated Church Press (ACP) and the Canadian Christian Communicators Association (CCCA).

The Religion Communicators Council has presented Wilbur Awards annually since 1949. Secular communicators enter work in seven categories. Juries of media professionals, coordinated by council members across the country, evaluate submissions on content, creativity, impact and excellence in communicating religious values. The award is named for the late Marvin C. Wilbur, a pioneer in religious public relations, longtime council leader and former Presbyterian Church executive. Each winner will receive individually crafted stained-glass Wilbur trophies.

2022 Wilbur Award winners (for work produced during 2021)

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES print and online

MAGAZINE ARTICLES print and online

  • National or Top 15 metro markets (single article, series of articles, religion page)


  • Non-fiction
    • Learning to PrayJames Martin, author; Michael Maudlin, editor; Harper Collins, San Francisco, California
  • Youth/Children


  • Feature Length Film
    • The Starling, Theodore Melfi, producer and director; Dylan Sellers, producer; Matt Harris, writer; Melissa McCarthy, cast; Chris O’Dowd, cast; Kevin Kline, cast; Netflix, Los Angeles, California
  • Documentary (30 min. +)
    • With God On Our Side, Mary McAleese, presenter; Ashling Fallon Casey, producer & director; Rania Atamna, Daráine Mulvihill, Anne-Marie Staunton, research; Liz Walshe, editor; Roger Childs, executive producer; RTÉ, Dublin



  • Drama
    • Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia,” Kenny Leon, director; Linda Berman, executive producer; Robin Roberts, executive producer; Sebastian Dungan, executive producer; Mekita Faiye, executive producer; Danielle Brooks, co-executive producer; Kenny Leon, co-executive producer; Charles Cooper, producer; Allen Lewis, producer; Rock’n Robin Productions and Lincoln Square Productions For Lifetime, Manhattan Beach, California
  • News – network or national syndication (up to 4 min.)
    • A COVID Easter,” Kevin Tibbles, correspondent, NBC Nightly News; Mary Godie, producer; Matt Frucci, executive producer; NBC, Highland Park, Illinois
  • News – network or national syndication (4-8 min.)
    • CBS Sunday Morning Two Hats,” Lee Cowan, correspondent; Aria Shavelson, producer; George Pozderec, editor; Rand Morrison, executive producer; CBS Sunday Morning, New York, New York
  • News – network or national syndication (8 min.+)
    • 60 Minutes: Survival,” Bill Owens, executive producer; Tanya Simon, executive producer; Holly Williams, correspondent; Michael H. Gavshon, producer; Daniel J. Glucksman, editor; Nadim Roberts, associate producer; CBS News 60 Minutes, San Francisco, California
  • Documentary (up to 30 min.)
    • 60 Minutes: The Ritchie Boys, Bill Owens, executive producer; Tanya Simon, executive editor; Jon Wertheim, correspondent; Katherine Davis, producer; Stephanie Palewski Brumbach, editor; Robert Zimet, editor; Jennifer Dozor, associate producer; CBS News 60 Minutes, San Francisco, California
  • Documentary (30 min.+)
    • Amen-Amen-Amen: A Story for Our Times, Tom Gallagher, creator and executive producer, writer, director & producer; David Gibson, writer, producer, and director; Marc Bell, executive producer; Ari Bernstein, executive producer; Stephen Breskin, executive producer; Eli Epstein, executive producer; David Gibson, executive producer; Mitchell Grabow, executive producer; Gary VandenBergh, editor producer; Religion Media Company, Riverside, Connecticut


  • Single program
    • Marketing Mysticism,” Naheed Musafa, producer; Greg Kelly, executive producer; CBC Radio One IDEAS, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Series of programs (two or more)
    • Saved by the City,” Roxanne Stone, host; Katelyn Beaty, host; Jonathan Woodward, producer; Religion News Service, New York, New York

About the Religion Communicators Council
The Religion Communicators Council (RCC), founded in 1929, is an association of communications professionals who work for and with a diverse group of faith-based organizations in the areas of communications, public relations, marketing and development.

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