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TLC’s Kirk Petersen Wins Two Polly Bond Awards

Episcopal Communicators has announced winners of Polly Bond Awards in 19 categories, and Kirk Petersen brought home two honors for The Living Church.

Petersen drew from his experience in financial journalism in writing “Want More Pandemic Money? It’s Complicated,” which won the Award of Excellence for News. Petersen explained an IRS Employee Retention Credit program that provided further relief for entities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The bad news is that the ERC is ludicrously complex, even by tax-code standards. Don’t ask your volunteer treasurer or part-time bookkeeper to manage applying — pay someone to do it for you,” Petersen wrote in a three-paragraph introduction before turning to a Q&A format.

The shortest exchange in the Q&A:

How is the amount of the credit calculated?

Don’t even go there.

“The writer has done a brilliant job of breaking down agonizingly complicated information, putting it into clear English and explaining how churches can use the program,” the contest judge wrote. “He took the time to step back from the facts he was drowning in, identify what would capture readers’ imaginations, and then write from that perspective.”

Petersen won an Award of Merit for his spot news article “Against All Odds, Paula Clark Is Consecrated Bishop of Chicago,” which included details about Phyllis Spiegel becoming Bishop of Utah on the same day.

Petersen recounted how Clark had persevered after experiencing a stroke and then losing her longtime husband to death:

Clark has made tremendous progress, but some level of disability will always remain. “I will have exercises that are related to the stroke for the rest of my life,” she told TLC in May. “It’s just part of what you do to stay nimble, right? So it’s a part of who I am now, the exercise regime is part of what I do, so that’s forever.”

Her voice has strengthened since that May interview, but a flat and nasal tone creeps in from time to time. She speaks somewhat slowly, but does not struggle to find words. She walks unaided, with small steps.

“This is a shining example of how to organize facts into a narrative that captures readers’ hearts and can remain with them long after they have turned the page,” the judge wrote. “Instead of opening with a flat statement that someone was consecrated a bishop in a ceremony that had been delayed by a stroke and the death of her husband, the writer sets the scene.”

Petersen also focused on a rousing sermon by Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, for whom Clark was canon to the ordinary before her election in Chicago:

At the beginning of her sermon, Budde gave a shout-out to another incoming bishop, 1,400 miles away. “There is another gathering of equal joy about to begin in the Episcopal Diocese of Utah,” where Phyllis Spiegel would be consecrated the 12th Bishop of Utah. “And Phyllis told me that she would be watching [this] service online until the procession begins in Salt Lake, so will you join me in greeting Bishop-elect Spiegel!” She led a raucous round of applause.

Polly Bond, who worked for the Diocese of Ohio, was one of 11 diocesan editors who founded a group called “Net-11” in 1971. In 1974, it became Episcopal Communicators. A photo from the era shows Bond and one other laywoman on a staircase with one man in a suit and five men in clerical collars.

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