When the Rev. Matt Fitzgerald learned that his podcast was was being honored by the Associated Church Press, he was genuinely surprised. That's because Fitzgerald, a United Church of Christ minister in Illinois, had no idea the podcast, Preachers on Preaching, was in the running for such a recognition.
Fitzgerald, pastor of St. Pauls UCC in Chicago, took first place in the audio category for Preachers on Preaching, which features weekly episodes with an extended interview. The award was presented at the Best of Christian Press Awards at the Associate Church Press' 100th anniversary gathering in St. Louis.
"I was absolutely delighted and surprised. I didn't realized the podcast was up for consideration, but this whole thing has been exciting, and I've learned a lot and talked with some really great people," Fitzgerald said. The podcast is published on the Christian Century website.
Asked what he thinks makes the podcast compelling, Fitzgerald said, "I speak with people of a variety of backgrounds — from white churches, African American churches, multi-cultural churches, mainline churches, evangelical churches — so it's a diverse group that is interviewed. I also think a lot of preachers have unprocessed experiences in doing their work, but they aren't given the time to unpack it, so one of the things I am intrigued by with the guests I've spoken with is how they've opened up in their challenges, what brings them joy."
"I think the podcast is not just for preachers, it's for anyone interested in God and processing spiritual experience," Fitzgerald said.
In addition to his podcast, Fitzgerald is a writer for the StillSpeaking Writers' Group.
"Matt joined the UCC's Stillspeaking Writers' Group in 2014 and has been a fantastic addition to the line-up of Daily Devotional writers," said Christina Villa, UCC director of communications. "One of his devotions, 'Coexist,' was one of the most controversial we've ever published and generated passionate pro and con responses for months."
Each year, the Associated Church Press honors faith communicators in categories for newspapers, newsletters, magazines, journals, news services, podcasts, bloggers and websites. This year's awards, handed out in April, honored more than 200 works published in 2015.