Extravagant Welcome

Michael J. Readinger

Michael J. Readinger

It has been a couple of years since the United Church of Christ migrated away from the branding and marketing language that included Extravagant Welcome. But, as we finalize our preparations for the CHHSM Annual Gathering in St. Louis from March 1-3, 2018, it is clear that this language still applies whenever we gather as a community of faith.

Additionally, our welcome to you all is a reminder that we are coming together as inspired leaders with a bold vision and shared values. We long to be in this place where we can change lives, inspire and support each other and work towards the realization of a just, caring and compassionate world for all.

In case you have not looked at the schedule for the Annual Gathering, let me share some of the highlights of this year’s event with a lens on how we can improve our skills as practitioners, on how we can further engage with others, and on how we are truly connected to the UCC and its Three Great Loves Initiative — Love of Children, Love of Neighbor, and Love of Creation:

  • Our Opening Worship at Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being featuring the consecration of the space.
  • Our German visitors from Diakonie Rheinland-Wesphalen-Lippe will share their ministry of healing in a plenary session that validates our connection in health and human services and reflects our common faith heritage.
  • Our three Nollau workshops will allow our attendees an opportunity to see some of our future leaders in action as they focus on advocacy, employee retention and methods of improving client service.
  •  Our keynote speakers are all leaders in their industry and they will share their thoughts and best practices on creating a sound advocacy strategy across all disciplines in these tumultuous times. These plenary and panel sessions are proof that our voices matter in telling the stories of the Three Great Loves.
  • Our corporate partners are an integral component of all that makes our Annual Gathering possible. Their time and talent, and their generosity, allow us to focus on the “why” we come together as we seek to be that manifestation of ministry that creates a just, caring and compassionate world for all.
  • The CHHSM Annual Business meeting will include the normal routine fiduciary items that we are required to address. This year, we will also offer a special presentation on the Impact of Ministry — an opportunity to showcase the work of our member ministries.
  • Our Gateway Celebration will lift up all the ministries in the region as we showcase their work, their unique impact on the Missouri Mid-South and Illinois South Conferences, and their local cuisine and music. Friday night’s dinner will include a good number of guests from the region during this wonderful evening.
  • Finally, our Closing Worship with the Nollau Class of 2017-2018’s Service of Consecration on Saturday afternoon promises to center us for the work ahead when we return home from this time of renewal. Our spirits will be well fed when we head off to the Closing Celebration dinner.

Prayers for safe travels to all of you joining us in St. Louis. You can count on an Extravagant Welcome from the CHHSM Board and the staff, from old friends, and from the new ones you will most certainly meet! Bring an open mind and an open heart so you can receive the spirit of the Three Great Loves initiative as we come together to create a just, caring and compassionate world for all.

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CHHSM Board and Staff are grieved to learn of the death of our friend and colleague, Greg Watson, who died in October 2022. Greg was vice president of operations for Embrace Living Communities, based in Oak Brook, Ill.Greg was a graduate of CHHSM’s Nollau Leadership Institute, class of 2018-2019, and was consecrated as a Diakonal Minister during our 2019 Annual Gathering in Chicago. In an article about his class in June 2018 — not long after the group’s first retreat — Greg said, “The best part is not only beginning the process of clarifying your calling; but also, understanding and accepting one’s personal strength. Recognition of one’s ‘true' self enables us to serve from a place of wholeness.”Greg also served on the CHHSM Board of Directors, and was a beloved friend and colleague to many in the CHHSM family. Embrace Living stated on its website, “Greg was an outstanding servant leader for 17 years at Embrace Living Communities. He will be greatly missed.”CHHSM sends its prayers and love to Greg’s friends, family, and Embrace Living colleagues. ... See MoreSee Less
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