When Sandra Hutchinson was a young seminary student in Ohio in the early 1970s, she had a choice. While her fiancé was studying to be a United Church of Christ pastor, she had assumed she would become a Methodist pastor.
“But I found the idea of calling — of being led into an area of service rather than being appointed — very appealing,” she says, “and so I decided to join the UCC.”
Rev. Hutchinson is now the staff chaplain at Chapel Hill Retirement Community, a United Church Homes campus in Canal Fulton, Ohio. Known as Pastor Sandy to staff, residents and their family members, Hutchinson believes that the connection between United Church Homes and its United Church of Christ heritage is vital to the mission and vision of the organization.
“The extravagant welcome exemplified by the United Church of Christ plays out every day in countless ways large and small at United Church Homes,” she says. “It says that we’re open, that we don’t close doors to people based on who they are or where they are on life’s journey.”
That journey, she adds, is often fraught with tension. “Life changes can be difficult. People don’t always know where they are on this path with regards to what they believe and how they best want to express those beliefs. Sometimes they simply want time to process – time to meditate on the path. As part of the United Church of Christ heritage, we welcome that freedom to express and to grow.”
When Hutchinson was offered the opportunity to become Chapel Hill’s full-time chaplain in 2001, she didn’t need long to think about it. Having been a UCC minister in Ohio since 1975, she was intimately familiar with the mission and vision of both the UCC and United Church Homes. Her life’s work had kept her connected to United Church Homes time and time again.
“As a pastor, our congregation was always lifting up the ministry of United Church Homes. It was always part of our mission,” she says.
Today, United Church Homes is a member of the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) of the United Church of Christ — a community of leaders and organizations committed to advancing the healing and service ministry of Jesus Christ.
The United Church of Christ continues to support the work of United Church Homes through donations, volunteers and prayer support.
“Something as simple as having a full-time chaplain on staff is testament to the deep connection between United Church Homes and United Church of Christ, both of whom share a concern for the whole person,” Hutchinson says. “Here, as at UCC, it’s all about relationship-building, and that can’t be done part time.”