Winners have been announced in the annual Faith Counts “Film Your Faith” video contest. An awards presentation was held during a dinner Friday night in the country’s Bible Belt at the 68th Annual Religion News Association Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center, where more than 150 journalists and religious leaders gathered to discuss the role of faith in society.
“This conference is the only time during the year where religion journalists can get together and talk about how we cover what we affectionately call ‘the God beat,’” said Lauren Markoe, managing editor of the Religion News Service. “We’re trying to shed some light on how the stories of the day are impacted by religion and affect people of faith.”
At the three-day conference, Faith Counts, a multi-faith website with a collaborative social media effort, awarded top prizes for original videos reflecting the value of faith in our society.
“We reach young people on a daily basis through our Faith Counts social media properties,” explained Kerry Troup, communications director of Faith Counts, a nonprofit organization representing more than 100 million Americans. “We try and reach young Americans ages 18 to 34 through creative content. … We felt the contest would allow us to engage them further by having the audience themselves produce some of the content.”
“They were gorgeous and moving. I had a really hard time voting on any one of the ten of them. They all presented faith, which is what I wanted to hear, in different modes from rap to nature to heartfelt decisions,” said Sister Marriott.
Simon Rivera, a physician’s assistant from Moseley, Virginia, won the $20,000 grand prize for his entry that featured his wife and their two young sons.
“I make little videos for family members, and I saw the video contest and I thought to myself, ‘This is just such a great opportunity to just show my creativity and also to be able to just show others, really, my take on faith,’” Rivera told the religion writers.
He said, “We all tend to, in times of crisis or highs, kind of pray to something or someone, so I think this is kind of a way to show them that they’re not alone. We’re all kind of connected.”
Imam Azam Akram of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Chicago attended the conference for faith-based writers. “Whether you call him God, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, it’s the same god that we all pray to. … As a faith leader, the greatest challenge I’m seeing in this day and age is the erosion of spirituality and religion in the Western communities.”
Clergy say there has been a shift in the way they communicate with millennials.
“Listen, this is one of the greatest times in history because now we can share our faith and not just on Sunday morning, but we can share our faith driving to work on a Monday morning with social media,” said Pastor Frank Stevenson of the City of Grace Church in Nashville.
“So every believer should make sure that all of their followers — all of their Instagram followers, all of their Facebook followers — know how much they love God. That’s the first thing we need to do,” said Stevenson.
“We would invite all to join together to bring forth and elevate greater faith in the world. So we hope that many will join our Faith Counts effort,” said Sister Marriott, who also visited with local clergy while in Nashville, including representatives from the African Methodist Episcopal Church and United Methodist Church.
“We talked about the importance of feeling like you belong and like someone wants you there and that you have value, something to give,” she said.
Sister Marriott is originally from Louisiana and said she felt right at home here in Tennessee. She was raised as a Methodist but later converted to Mormonism, a faith journey that she shared with the religious leaders during her visit.
Here is the grand prize video winner:
Honorable Mention Video: