Faithful Fragility

By Bryan Sickbert

In my final meeting as CHHSM president with the board of directors, I shared a quote from my 1991 application cover letter to the CHHSM president and CEO search committee. It said “organizations like CHHSM are perpetually fragile because their fundamental mission is to pursue meaning, thus the product of their work will never have measurable market value.”

While CHHSM is not currently fragile to the point of shattering as it was in 1991, this statement remains true today. Whatever the future holds for us, we can be sure that the journey will be precarious.

In 2002 the CHHSM Board of Directors issued a statement on financial support of CHHSM. It said in part “UCC health and human service institutions have, through CHHSM, formed their own congregation of witness to assure the integrity of their core identity as ministries of the church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the work of CHHSM is primarily that of a spiritual community, a congregation.“

The “value” question is one that will always confront CHHSM. It generally presents as some variation on “what do we get for our dues?” “Dues” is an unfortunate term. The board statement goes on to say “dues in the CHHSM context cannot be equated with the type of economic exchange typical of a secular trade association. CHHSM dues are a spiritual commitment to our collective mission to sustain and advance the work of healing and service as a ministry of the church.” I don’t ask my pastor “what do I get for my pledge.” My pledge is a sacrificial sign of my commitment to and engagement in the mission of the church. So it is also with CHHSM “dues.”

CHHSM’s congregational character is at once our greatest strength and vulnerability. It is what makes us perpetually fragile as a market entity but also offers perpetuity of purpose valued more highly than the market can imagine. This is our paradox of hope. It is the paradox of a faith where “every valley will be exalted and every mountain and hill made low.”

My prayer for CHHSM’s future is that we embrace the power of our fragility. I pray that our fragility will be confessed and celebrated as a sign that we have the courage to offer hope where no one else does and that we do not fear losing ourselves in that pursuit. The market won’t get it, but our value proposition is a call to faithfulness, not a promise of return on investment.

Friends, it has been my great gift to serve as CHHSM’s executive leader for over two decades. You have all been a blessing to me. I leave you with this truth and exhortation:

“You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others that they may see your good work and give glory to God.”

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