CHHSM Brings Multitude of Gifts to UCC General Synod this Summer

Beginning with the opening worship and concluding with closing worship, the UCC’s General Synod — which takes place June 30-July 4 in Indianapolis — will feature many of the gifts of the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) and its members.

The theme of this year’s Synod is “Making All Things New,” based on Isaiah 43:18-19: “Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Jamar Doyle

On Friday, June 30, Jamar Doyle, president and CEO of CHHSM, will deliver the sermon during opening worship.

“CHHSM’s work is one personified through our service to those in need, and through our fight for justice and belonging,” said Doyle. “CHHSM’s work is the work of the church, a beacon of hope in all of our community, and I hope to share our message of love through service with the wider UCC community.

Bookending General Synod will be closing worship July 4, featuring CHHSM board member and Nollau Leadership Institute adjunct faculty member the Rev. Dr. JJ Flag as the preacher.

The Rev. Dr. JJ Flag

In addition to his work with CHHSM, Flag currently is associate minister for pastoral care and justice at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., part of the Alliance of Baptists. The Alliance is a progressive group of congregations that has a long, formal ecumenical relationship with the UCC.

Additionally, CHHSM staffer the Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry, associate for advocacy and leadership development, will lead one of the Educational Intensives preceding the opening of General Synod. The intensives, held prior to opening worship on June 30, help educate Synod delegates on the various resolution issues they will be debating. Berry will offer her expertise on the intensive for the Synod Resolution of Witness, “Faithful Advocate for Intersectional and Transformational Healing in Harm Reduction.”

Luncheon Opportunities, Too

Bryan Stevenson’s book “Just Mercy” will be given to each attendee.

CHHSM also is helping to sponsor two luncheons during General Synod. On Saturday, July 1, the UCC’s Justice and Local Church Ministries, with assistance from CHHSM, will host its Valerie Russell Luncheon. Honoring the late justice stalwart who led the UCC’s Office in Church and Society, this year’s luncheon features author, attorney, activist, and MacArthur Fellow Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson is executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), and Alabama-based group that has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent prisoners on death row, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. He also is CEO of The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala. Thanks to a contribution from CHHSM, each attendee will receive a copy of Stevenson’s seminal work and New York Times Bestseller, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

CHHSM, along with the UCC’s Wholeness Advocacy Team, also is sponsoring the Celebrating Disability, Mental Health, Sexuality, and Wellness Justice Luncheon Monday, July 3. The luncheon will be a time of inspiration, education, and celebration. It will feature live musicians, drag performers, and a buffet followed by a panel moderated by Doyle. Panelists will include Berry; Bishop Allison Abrams of the UCC Mental Health Network; the Rev. Jess Chancey co-chair of Disability Ministries; Rachael Ward, team leader of the UCC’s gender and sexuality justice ministries and executive director of the United Church HIV/AIDS Network (UCAN); the Rev. Rhina Ramos, national coordinator for the UCC’s Encuentros Latinx; and Peggy Matteson of UCC Wellness Ministries. Following the discussion, an innovative communion service of breaking barriers vs. breaking bread will be held.

“Something I love about the UCC is that justice is so central to how we embody, live into, and understand the Gospel,” said CHHSM’s Berry. “The communities that came together to put this luncheon on are those for whom advocating for changes in both hearts and systems is vital. And that work has its own tone and energy that saves lives. Part of the Good News is joy, community, and living water, when we celebrate being created in the image and likeness of God just as we are. This luncheon brings together that justice and joy, as it is a celebration. It should be a rich and engaging experience of our shared discipleship.”

Workshop and Exhibit Hall Presence

Indiana Convention Center, site of the General Synod.

CHHSM and its partners, friends, and member ministries also will be an active part of this year’s Synod. Once again, CHHSM will be present in the Exhibit Hall providing information and hospitality in an area that features a number of CHHSM member organizations, including Bellewood and Brooklawn/Seven Counties Services, Crossroad Child & Family Services, Emmaus Homes, United Church Homes, and Uplands Retirement Community.

Additionally, United Church Homes will present one of the Synod workshops. The Fountain of Wisdom — Thinking Benefits of Ministries with Older Adults will be held Saturday, July 1, at 1:30 p.m. Presented by the Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, director of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging at United Church Home, and Kim Moeller, UCH’s project and special event coordinator, the workshop will consider ways to reframe the demographic shift in our churches to see in the shift opportunities for ministry, evangelism, and faith formation. It will consider our cultural context with demographic data and theological perspectives about our aging society. Long-Higgins and Moeller will share examples and resources for local congregations willing to explore and expect a future of engaged members participating in vibrant ministries.

During the entirety of General Synod, the many members and friends and work of CHHSM will be experienced by Synod goers. It promises to be a time of joy and — as the Synod motto says — a time of “Making All Things New.”

“General Synod is a time to celebrate our work with friends and partners across the UCC,” said Doyle. “We look forward to being a presence of hope as, together, we create a more just, equitable, inclusive world for all.”

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