Michael J. Readinger

Michael J. Readinger

Advent is a time of waiting, quietness and hoping for the unexpected. It’s a time of anticipation, as well as a celebration of the joy, peace, hope, love and promises of our God who came to dwell among us.

How much of that joy, hope, peace and love did the marginalized experience in their struggle to survive the oppression of that day? Think of the nativity story in this light: Mary, Joseph and their newborn Son were marginalized from the start.

With Mary nine months pregnant, they went to Bethlehem to register for the census as required by the Roman occupiers of Palestine. This was not a vacation trip. There was no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn so they were sent to sleep in a barn. There were no hospitals, shelters or food pantries at that time, but there were passionate servant leaders. Mary’s delivery was probably assisted by local midwives and the young family was fed by others who saw their need. From his very humble beginnings and all through his life, Jesus identified with those who were economically, politically and physically marginalized. His passion for servant leadership was extremely evident and provided the impetus for centuries of faith-based health and human service ministry.

CHHSM also awaits with great expectation the possibilities of our own “advent-ure.” As the season of Advent unfolds, I am refreshed by the journey that lies ahead in our shared ministry. For CHHSM there is so much to look forward to as we continue to evolve in this period of transition and transformation.

The board and staff began working with a task force of member organizations to develop a value proposition statement that will be formally announced at the CHHSM Annual Meeting in Houston March 3–5.

At the November CHHSM board meeting, we began a generative conversation that will lead to several exciting strategic initiatives for the next year or so. More importantly, the intentional manner in which we will weave together the value proposition, the strategic initiatives and the annual meeting theme will provide a clear message to membership and the wider church about where we are going in the future.

The tasks we accomplished in 2015 have set the table for some exciting developments in 2016. Look for the news in the months ahead as we launch a new staffing model for the CHHSM team which enhances our capacity to meet membership’s needs. We will also present a new look for our website, marketing and communications platforms that will be more interactive and up-to-date and will provide greater utility for all users. As we work to improve our communications with membership, 2016 will bring a series of webinars for membership on a variety of topics and will offer quarterly dashboard calls from the board and staff where members can listen to the latest news and learn about coming events.

The Nollau Institute Class of 2016-17 also promises some significant changes that will increase experiential learning, theological reflection and practical applications for participants during their coursework and additional opportunities in their work as Diakonal Ministers going forward. CHHSM has adopted a revised governance structure that will allow the board to be more strategic and generative in their work while improving their ability to perform their fiduciary responsibilities.

All in all, the hope and expectations of Advent and the promise of a new year are very real in the life of CHHSM. The board and staff wish you and yours a warm and wonderful holiday season and invite you to join us on the journey to becoming a more responsive, relevant, impactful and meaningful part of our shared faith-based ministry in the United Church of Christ and communities across the country. It’s going to be quite an adventure.

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