USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

University of Southern California

Reimagining Religion 2018: New Stories, New Communities

Reimagining Religion 2018: New Stories, New Communities

Reimagining Religion 2018: New Stories, New Communities

Reimagining Religion 2018: New Stories, New Communities was a conference hosted at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism by the Knight Program for Media and Religion, along with Religion Communicators Council, Religion News Association, the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Claremont School of Theology and First United Methodist Church of Los Angeles. The

Video from the conference is available on this YouTube playlist, with the individual videos in the order of the schedule below:

New Stories, New Communities: Opening with Richard Flory

The introduction set the stage and provide context for the day’s discussions of how groups are “reimagining” religion today. Richard Flory presented data on religion trends along with the findings of the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture’s study of religious creativity in Los Angeles. He introduced the “Reimagined Communities” framework, showcasing common characteristics that span creative groups and activities within all faiths and no faith at all. CRCC’s presentation featured video examples and explored some of the communications challenges of these groups.


Religion and Ethics in Entertainment Media with Joy Gregory

Joy Gregory (Felicity, Madam Secretary, Joan of Arcadia) shared how she incorporates stories of religion and themes of spirituality into entertainment programming in ways that appeal to a broad audience.


Making Change Public

How can organizations communicate their ideas in the public square to create change?

What’s the role of storytelling in effective social activism?

The USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture brought together a group of local faith leaders whose work in the public square has included crafting narratives. This session will include practical tips for faith communities on storytelling as well as the pitfalls of this tool. It will help journalists understand the goals and tactics of faith-based organizers so they can ask better questions.

Rabbi Noah Farkas, Valley Beth Shalom
Umar Hakim, ILM Foundation & INKERIJ
Aziza Hasan, NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change
Zach Hoover, LA Voice
Megan Sweas, USC Center for Religion & Civic Culture (moderator)

Revitalizing and Reinventing Religion

What does the future of the church/synagogue/mosque/gurdwara/temple look like?  In what new vessels are people finding meaningful community? This workshop explored how traditional religious organizations have embraced innovative ideas that may shape the future of faith.  A creative look beyond the church that is a taco truck…

Eddie Anderson, McCarty Memorial Christian Church
Edina Lekovic, Pico Union Project
Mandy Sloan McDow, First United Methodist Church of Los Angeles
Cathleen Falsani, Sinners & Saints Consulting (moderator)

New Communities of Healing

With the decline of traditional religious institutions, people are turning to other places to find community, often organizing around shared values and experiences rather than a set of religious beliefs. Nick Street, senior writer at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture, has been examining a number of these groups in Los Angeles. He will introduce several groups that are deploying body-focused (“somatic”) healing practices in conjunction with work connected to social justice movements, community resilience and trauma recovery. Following his overview of these developments, he will lead a discussion with panelists and the audience about how these “communities of healing” form, as well as the challenges they face.

Rita Burgos, Rebuild I Recovery
Rabbi Susan Goldberg, Wilshire Boulevard Temple
Nkem Ndefo, Lumos Transforms
Nick Street, USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture (moderator)

Getting Better Coverage

Featuring a distinguished array of seasoned journalists, this session explored how to more effectively share stories that don’t get covered enough or should get covered better.

Deepa Bharath, The Orange County Register & Southern California Newspaper Group
Liz Kineke, CBS Religion and Culture
Ian Lovett, Wall Street Journal
Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times (moderator)

New Storytelling Skills and Outreach Strategies

This workshop featured some cutting edge insights about new skills for social media, video storytelling, podcasts, featuring Annenberg professors, specialists, and guests.

Laura E. Davis, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Rossella Gambetti, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Mira Zimet, The Storyboard Project, University of Southern California
Diane Winston, USC Knight Chair in Media and Religion (moderator)

From Non-Fiction to Fiction

This workshop features Hollywood writers and USC Annenberg professors on challenges faced in mainstream storytelling.

David Craig, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Jody Hassett Sanchez, Documentary Filmmaker
Diane Winston, USC Knight Chair in Media and Religion (moderator)

The Future fo Religion Storytelling in Mainstream Media featuring Jason DeRose

Featuring a conversation with NPR’s Western Bureau Chief Jason DeRose moderated by USC’s Diane Winston, the closing plenary asks, “What does the future of storytelling about religion look like?”

Change and diversity seem to be the only constants in today’s religious landscape.  What is emerging in terms of the forms of new community?  What are the advances in storytelling that treat the human situation authentically in both sacred and secular spheres?