Doyle Calls CHHSM to Move Forward, Together in First Annual Gathering Address

Jamar Doyle delivers his speech March 8.

Jamar Doyle, recently installed president and CEO of the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, emphasized working together to identify CHHSM’s path ahead in a rousing address during an evening dinner Tuesday, March 8. The event was part of CHHSM’s 84th Annual Gathering, being held through March 10 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky.

Drawing on the gathering’s theme — Forward Together — and the biblical focus of Philippians 3:13-14, Doyle said, “We honor the work of the past, but we are called forward to what lies ahead, acknowledging the fact that the world has changed drastically over the past few years. We cannot miss the opportunity we have before us to have a part in creating a just, caring and compassionate world, a world as right as God intends it to be.”

During the speech — Doyle’s first formal address since beginning work March 1 — he celebrated the appropriateness of that theme. “Returning to the status quo —[following the pandemic] misses the lessons of these difficult times … Now, we are to approach things with a new vision to move forward from this moment together,” he said. “And this is why the theme of this year’s gathering is so appropriate: ‘Forward Together.’ A simple, two-word phrase that carries so much meaning as we emerge at a new normal post-pandemic.”

Doyle began his speech by thanking CHHSM staff and board members for their extravagant welcome, and then introduced himself to the CHHSM membership. Raised in Cleveland’s inner city, Doyle comes to CHHSM after serving most recently as executive director of the Greater Collinwood Development Corporation, one of Cleveland’s largest community development corporations. In that capacity, he transformed the organization by tripling its service area and expanding its outreach while streamlining finances.

But it was his story of why he chose to pursue his new post that touched hearts. “I grew up in the Collinwood and Glenville neighborhoods of Cleveland, and working to rebuild my home was a labor of love and a passion of the heart, and it took a special assignment to pull me away,” he said. “And that brings us to today. Because, you see, for as much as this work in my home community has filled me with joy, something was always missing, and that something was a direct connection to my faith.”

Doyle explained that although he grew up in a predominantly Black denomination and felt called to ministry from a relatively early age, he distanced himself from that call. “As a teen … I was conflicted because the same teenage boy was discovering who he was as a Black gay man who loves the Lord,” said Doyle. “Now this was about 20 years ago and, at that time, particularly in the Black church, an outwardly gay Christian was viewed as an oxymoron. And so, while my faith in God never wavered, I ran from that call, struggling to reconcile my sexuality with my faith and upbringing.”

In his new post as president and CEO of CHHSM, Doyle said, he realized CHHSM offers a chance for him to “continue his passion for community work through the lens of faith, equity, and inclusion.”

During his address, Doyle promised to listen to staff, board, members, and partners, and to strive to understand their unique perspectives, challenges and opportunities. The goal, he said, is to “build an authentic relationship grounded in the trust needed for us to work effectively together to move froward the work of CHHSM.”

 Doyle closed his speech with a litany of moving “Forward, together.”

“Now I will not stand before you today and say that I have he solution or that I have even crafted a specific vision for CHHSM,” he said. “I am too new, and this moment is too serious for the simple generalities I could offer in this, my seventh working day. No, our work is to identify that vision together , and united we will find ways to meet these difficult challenges. This work will not be easy, but pressing forward together , we will define a CHHSM that leads in this new reality.”

Forward, together, assured Doyle, “we will put forth a vision for CHHSM that honors the past while facing the challenges of our time.”

Forward, together, he added, CHHSM will strengthen its networks, share resources and best practices, increase membership, remain financially strong, and continue its strong anti-racist platform, serving as a national model for other organizations to follow. “These are not platitudes, but possibilities,” Doyle said, “well within our reach based on the strong history and leadership of this organization, the church, and our membership. This is our charge. This is our moment. This is our movement. We can achieve all this and more, if we commit to day to moving forward together.”

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