CHHSM’s Rev. Jerry Paul Scholar Program Focuses on Opportunities for Health and Human Service Career Paths for Seminarians

Emily Howard is the current CHHSM Scholar.

More than 20 years ago, The UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries quietly started a scholarship program to foster seminarians’ interest in faith-based health and human service ministries. Today, that program — now known as the Rev. Jerry Paul Scholar Program — continues to thrive, and has helped form career choices for many seminarians.

United Church of Christ member Emily Howard is one. Howard, the current CHHSM Scholar, says she’s thankful for the program. Although she already felt called to ministry with older adults, Howard says, “When I came into the first CHHSM events I attended, I felt a new dimension to my call to ministry. I am feeling thankful for my vocation being formed in this time as a CHHSM Scholar.”

The CHHSM Scholar program is tailored to the individual seminarian, and runs during each school year. It concludes with the graduation of the scholar. Only after the current scholar is finished does CHHSM begin the process of finding a new scholar.

“CHHSM staff and the scholar work together to create goals, reading lists, and a year of experiences to help the person develop a better understanding of what health and human service ministry is like as a career,” says the Rev. Danielle Bartz, CHHSM’s associate for advocacy and leadership development. “The goal is to expose seminary students to the many different forms of ministry offered to them, and to encourage the future leadership of CHHSM member ministries.”

To that end, each scholar has many opportunities to engage with health and human service professionals, including visits to CHHSM member ministries. Scholars also attend a CHHSM Board of Directors meeting, attend the CHHSM Annual Gathering, and have monthly meetings (by phone or in person) with CHHSM staff in order to reflect on their experiences. CHHSM reimburses all related travel expenses; additionally, scholars receive $2,000/year towards their tuition expenses.

All scholars have the opportunity to participate in the Nollau Institute, a year-long exploration of what it means to be a servant leader. Nollau class members are commissioned as Diakonal Ministers at the end of their studies. Howard is a member of the current Nollau class, which held its first retreat in April.

“I look for my ministry to the retirement communities and older adults, along with the wider church, to grow and change in my Nollau Institute experience,” Howard says.

CHHSM Scholar Experience Carries Over into Career

Former CHHSM Scholar Megan Culbertson Huxhalli.

For Megan Culbertson Huxhalli, serving as a CHHSM Scholar — and, later, on the CHHSM Board of Directors — was a seminal experience as she discerned her call during seminary and while working towards her MSW degree.

“I remember first seeing a presentation on CHHSM at a UCC Executive Council meeting during my first year in seminary, and feeling like I had found my people,” Culbertson Huxhalli reflects. “That sense was only intensified when I attended my first CHHSM board meeting.”

As a CHHSM Scholar from 2012 to 2015, Huxhalli says she was “able to talk to people who were on the same path as me, which helped me to define and articulate my call. I was also able to see the ‘real’ side of social service ministry and wrestle with the challenges that come with being part of the nonprofit world.”

Culbertson Huxhalli says she found little conversations and moments to be what ultimately helped her define her call. One moment, she says, “was going to Back Bay Mission and spending time with then-director Shari Prestemon and the staff there. I was inspired by their commitment to the people they serve and was able to see the UCC values in action.”

But the more routine events also left an impression. At a CHHSM Annual Gathering, Culbertson Huxhalli heard someone from Orion Family Services speak about the work of Orion. “It really touched me, and pushed me to pursue the call I was feeling, to move on from my job in church relations and go into direct service with youth,” she adds.

Today, thanks to her CHHSM experiences, Culbertson Huxhalli works with Lutheran Services in Iowa as a juvenile detention center therapist, which she feels “is the perfect job for my calling.”

Program Named for Beloved Servant Leader


In 2015, the CHHSM Scholar Program was renamed in honor of the Rev. Jerry Paul, who oversaw the sale and conversion of the Deaconess Health System in St. Louis into a grant-making foundation, for which he served as president and CEO until his retirement in 2012. He died in May 2015 after a lifetime of servant leadership.

“He had exceptionally good insights into people and how to best develop their skills,” says Nesa Joseph, president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Association of St. Louis. “There are lots of nonprofits and foundations in St. Louis, and Jerry was the person who reached out, coordinated and collaborated so that efforts weren’t duplicated.”

Paul was a CHHSM board member, and was known for his generosity of time and money. He was best known for his ability to mentor and develop young leaders, says Michael J. Readinger, president and CEO of CHHSM. “It is fitting to name this program after him because he was truly a scholar and a servant leader, and that’s what this program is all about.”

For questions about the CHHSM Scholar program, contact the Rev. Danielle Bartz. (

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