Inspiring Preachers, Speakers to Highlight CHHSM Annual Gathering
The 83rd CHHSM Annual Gathering, themed “Together in Hope,” takes place online March 2-4 with a docket of keynote speakers and worship leaders guaranteed to inspire and captivate attendees.
Preachers include the Rev. Darrell Goodwin, executive conference minister of the UCC’s Southern New England Conference, and the Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk — teacher, educator, preacher, executive, organizer and author who has been a strong ally in the fight for human and civil rights for people of color, children, and poor persons. Keynoters include author Kaitlin Curtice, Eden Theological Seminary Director of Contextual Education the Rev. Dr. Dietra Wise Baker, and executives from the Annual Gathering’s Platinum Sponsor, Ziegler.
The Gathering kicks off at 11 a.m. March 2 with opening worship featuring a sermon by Goodwin. “During the realities of a racial and health pandemic, CHHSM and its covenanted members continue to serve those seen as ‘the least and the last’ in our world,” he says. “As a worship leader, I hope to remind us that we have been light, and will continue to be light as we move through what has been a period of darkness.”
Goodwin’s “message about faith in support of hope is a testament to the faith that our member ministries express in their service to their clients and residents every day,” says Michael J. Readinger, president and CEO of CHHSM. “They have faith in, and believe that, the work they do makes a difference — that gives their clients hope.”
The service also will incorporate some of the prayers that the Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry, CHHSM’s associate for advocacy and leadership development, developed for the UCC’s Health and Human Service Sunday. It will include Berry’s litany of gratitude for essential workers, “which honors the work that so many of our ministries and others have done as we have faced the COVID-19 pandemic,” says the Rev. George Graham, vice president of CHHSM.
The March 2 keynote address during the opening plenary will be delivered by Kaitlin Curtice, poet, author, public speaker, and author of NATIVE: Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering God. Curtice is an enrolled citizen of the Potawatomi, a federally recognized tribe of Potawatomi people located in Oklahoma. The Potawatomi are traditionally an Algonquian-speaking Eastern Woodlands tribe with 29,155 enrolled tribal members, of whom 10,312 live in the state of Oklahoma. Curtice also grew up in the Christian faith. She writes and speaks about the intersection of indigenous spirituality, faith in everyday life, and decolonization within the church.
“I believe Curtice has much to teach us, and I am sure that hearing her speak will be one of the highlights of the Annual Gathering for me,” says Graham. CHHSM has selected Curtice’s book as its next selection in its “Together We Learn” book group.
March 3 will feature an afternoon plenary presented by Ziegler, a privately held investment bank, capital markets and proprietary investments firm specializing in the healthcare, senior living and education sectors. “As always, we are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with CHHSM and provide educational information to the membership,” says Dan Hermann, Ziegler president and CEO. “We are excited to be part of the 2021 Annual Gathering.”
The Ziegler presentation will focus on workforce pressures, diversity, equity and inclusion discussions, accelerated technology adoption, and philanthropy efforts. It will be co-presented by Lisa McCracken, Ziegler’s director of senior living research and development, and Tommy Brewer, managing director.
“We all know that we have been through significant change across the past year,” says McCracken. “What we hope to accomplish with this session is to acknowledge that elements of our work and mission outreach have shifted and how we can prepare for future change. Admittedly, some of these fundamental shifts — while difficult — have forced us to be better. We hope attendees walk away with greater clarity and a renewed optimism for the year ahead.”
Additionally, adds Brewer, “we have intentionally carved out time in this session to talk about PPP loans and government stimulus funds. We know that many CHHSM members have been recipients of these funds, and that the reporting and tracking requirements can be complicated. We are hopeful that the feedback provided will better position CHHSM members in their financial planning.”
The Rev. Dr. Dietra Wise Baker — faculty member at UCC-related Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Mo. — will deliver the keynote during the March 4 closing plenary. An organizer with Metropolitan Congregations United in Greater St. Louis, Wise Baker has served as a program coordinator with the National Benevolent Association of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She also has worked as a chaplain and program development manager for Episcopal City Mission, a nonprofit providing chaplaincy services to incarcerated children in metropolitan St. Louis.
Wise Baker “will help us think through how we bridge our work in health and human services with community organizing, congregational ministry, and raising up a new generation of leaders,” says Graham. “The possibility of building these bridges is a source of hope for me, so I am looking forward to suggestions that Dr. Wise Baker will make on how to do that.”
Closing worship March 4 will feature renowned justice advocate the Rev. Dr. Yvonne V. Delk. In 1974, Delk became the first African-American woman to be ordained into Christian ministry in the United Church of Christ. Delk says she originally heard her call to ministry through Franklinton Center at Bricks, a CHHSM member located on the site of a former plantation in Whitakers, N.C. Today, the Center is a sacred and historical space focused on freedom, justice and equality.
“My connections to Franklinton Center at Bricks began at the age of six in summer camping programs,” Delk says. “It was here that I was reminded that God had a call on my life. It was here that I was prepared and equipped for service to my church and community. It was here that the seeds were planted for me to say yes to God in ministry.”
“We are really looking forward to having the Rev. Dr. Yvonne Delk bring us the Word for closing worship — a pioneering leader in justice work — especially since she was not able to be with us as had been planned at last year’s Annual Gathering,” says Graham.
Following many of the presentations at this year’s Gathering, reflection times have been built into the agenda to aid attendees in processing what they hear during plenaries. “These will be intentional times devoted to participants’ having a chance to talk about what they just heard,” says Readinger. “We are creating a safe space for people to share their emotions, learnings, understandings, concerns and joys abut messages they’ve heard. They should be quite visceral and immediate in nature.”
The reflection times were created in answer to requests by attendees of previous Gatherings asking for more time to unpack what is presented in plenary. “We hope that these reflection times will give people an opportunity to do just that,” adds Graham. “The reflection times will also allow people to interact with one another, which is one of the most important aspects of the Annual Gathering.”
Throughout the Annual Gathering, speakers, preachers, and workshop leaders will incorporate the theme of the Annual Gathering — Together in Hope — into their presentations. Perhaps closing preacher Delk puts it best:
“As CHHSM plans for the Annual Gathering around the theme of ‘Together in Hope,’ we must remember that hope is not a noun, it is a verb. Hope is made visible as we renew our commitment to name, unmask and dismantle systemic racism in all aspects of our health and human services as the path to becoming the beloved community. Hope evolves as we speak and act with courage and clarity for justice, equity and truth. It is a prerequisite for creating a just caring and compassionate world.”
Registration for this virtual Annual Gathering is free. Peruse the schedule and register today!
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