From Longing to Belonging

Michael J. Readinger

Michael J. Readinger

As I reflect on what it means to be a membership organization, my viewpoint is touched by the recent holidays – the Advent season of anticipation, the warmth and happiness of Christmas, and the hope of the New Year. In addition to family, prayer and celebration, singing is a big part of these times. We know our favorite holiday songs by heart, but what about their deeper meanings?

When we sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” we express longing for the miracle the season promises. In “What Child Is This?” we feel the hope and wonder of what may come. Singing “Auld Lang Syne” reminds us to cherish our memories and friendships of the past, present and future.

The same sentiments wash over me as I think about the covenant that exists in our organization. Our partnership in CHHSM is a two-way street, with longing in one direction and belonging in the other. There are so many miracles in our work, and in the joy we receive from bringing hope to our clients, patients and residents. Sharing visions for the future and insights from our peers provides hope to us individually as we imagine what our covenant may bring. These special networking relationships, both personal and professional, are our most treasured gifts to each other. When it all clicks, we long to belong.

Also, as a faith-based organization, we must help our clients in their longing to belong. We must engage them where they are, when they are there and how they want to be engaged. That is how we will bring promise and hope to their journeys.

For CHHSM members, active engagement includes participating in the community of servant leaders to which we all belong. We need to be teachers, students and evangelists. When we teach and learn, and spread the word to others, we complete the circle of longing and belonging.

True, meaningful engagement requires communication in both directions. What do you long for? What makes you feel like you belong? What is the value CHHSM brings to you, your organization and constituents? You can only get as much from belonging as you long to give. An old adage on the meaning of ministry says, “Much is given, much is required.”

Yes, we would like you to participate in the programs, services, meetings and other readily measurable means of engagement. But we also invite you to join us as an active participant in the transformative process that is underway as we explore our shared ministry of health and human service.

What better time to embrace this two-way covenant than now? As we grow in this time of transformation with a change in leadership at CHHSM, you can be a part of the 77th CHHSM Annual Meeting, March 5-7 in Cleveland. The meeting will explore the relationships of our member ministries to the core values of the United Church of Christ, and what it means to be undergoing transformation as individuals and organizations. We will also take a hard look at social issues impacting today’s society and what that means to how we serve our clients, offer volunteer opportunities and develop team members.

In our personal and professional lives, let’s make sure that we have the longing to belong – wherever we are, whatever we are doing, with whoever is at our side. On this journey, with CHHSM, transform yourself. Become more engaged, active and connected, and a stronger teacher, student and evangelist for what you hold most dear.

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