CHHSM Scholar Davis Not Only Gaining Experience, But Offering Her Gifts to Member Organizations

Dr. Zaria Davis takes a selfie with the cooperation of the CHHSM board during its November meeting.

Dr. Zaria Davis has hit the ground running as the current CHHSM Rev. Jerry Paul Scholar, and the experience is opening up a myriad of possible paths to her for future health and human service ministry.

“I feel like the first term allowed me the opportunity to learn about the organization and its members,” Davis says. “It opened up doors to see how I may contribute to the wonderful work already being done by the staff. Now, I can dig in to support the organizations, provide additional support, and lend my expertise where needed.”

Although she admits to being “not as familiar with CHHSM” and its work in the beginning, she is finding the experience as CHHSM Scholar one that “is challenging me to explore where I am being led within the ministry space.”

Davis has always had a drive to serve others. “Growing up,” she wrote when applying for the program, “my mother said that I didn’t know a stranger, and people felt comfortable talking to me even when I was really young. In high school, I became a peer mediator, which was a restorative justice program for students who had conflicts [so that they could] avoid suspension.”

Davis is offfering classes and coaching to CHHSM members and friends.

That drive has fueled her service in nonprofit organizations over the past 20 years, and is still evident today, both in her M.Div. degree studies at UCC-related Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Mo., and in her work with CHHSM. One way she is actively reaching out to CHHSM members is through offering employee spiritual care and wellness classes, individual and group coaching sessions, and healing circles — 60-to-90-minutes centering sessions for groups.

“Working with Zaria has been simply incredible. The beautiful ways the threads of her life and experience weaves so well with the life of CHHSM has been moving to watch unfold,” said the Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry, associate for advocacy and leadership development. “Moreover, because there is such a natural integration with her background, future interests, and the mission of CHHSM members, it has been easy to connect her with a variety of our organizations from a place of collaboration and collegiality. I’m really looking forward to what is to come in this new year, especially her workshop on restorative justice in the workplace at the CHHSM Annual Gathering in Denver.”

In addition to her offerings for CHHSM member organizations, Davis is participating in much of the regular work of CHHSM staff. “I have had the opportunity to meet amazing leaders from various CHHSM organizations,” she says. “I have participated in team meetings, and sat in on affinity group meetings.” Davis also attended CHHSM’s fall board meeting, which offered her the opportunity to lead the closing session.

“The chance to learn within the ministry and make the connection to my social service background has allowed me to explore my next steps,” says Davis. “I appreciate making the connection of ministry work to my seminary education.”

Working with Staff a Highlight

Davis says that working with the CHHSM staff team has been invaluable because “the staff has made me feel like I am part of the team. They have supported me as a student in addition to encouraging me to bring in my professional experience,” she adds. “I truly enjoyed getting to know the board members and learning from them individually. In addition, I have been able to receive support in theological reflections and how my ministry call is developing while at CHHSM.”

Davis says that one dimension of serving as CHHSM Scholar was a bit of a surprise to her: the scope of CHHSM. “I didn’t know about all the impactful CHHSM organizations prior to my starting,” she says. “For class, I was asked to interview the [CHHSM] team, and that opportunity allowed me to not only learn about CHHSM, but the WHY for each of the staff members. I am continuing to learn about the member organizations and their work throughout the country. I appreciate the opportunity to continue to engage the affinity groups and leaders individually.”

In addition to attending seminary, Davis is the senior consultant with New Direction Coaching & Consulting, LLC, working with nonprofit organizations. She has had a specific focus on people impacted by the criminal legal system. Zaria also has served as director of advocacy for the Chicago Community Bond Fund, addressing pretrial justice issues in Illinois and supervising the advocacy team and interns.

Davis earned a B.A. degree in Sociology from Wilberforce (Ohio) University, and a M.S.W. degree from the University of Cincinnati, where she was a Joe Hall Scholar and an Albert C. Yates Scholar. She earned a D.S.W. degree with honors from Capella University. Her dissertation was “Can you see what they see: An adolescent perspective of dating practices.”

Her experience during the first three months of her time as CHHSM scholar has confirmed what she suspected when she first applied for the role.

“I believe this opportunity will support my ministry growth and focus on my next steps in where I am being led,” she wrote at the time. “This scholars program would provide knowledge and mentoring that I can benefit from as I grow into leadership roles within the UCC church and community.

“As someone who is exploring my discernment and understanding that is not directly related to pastoring a church, the growth and experience that can come out of this program can be life-changing.”

A statement that rings true for both Davis and CHHSM staff and member organizations.

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