‘Let the Service Begin’
As I have continued my outreach to the CHHSM community, I’ve met so many wonderful people, sharing in many thought-provoking conversations that have left me with new ideas and perspectives on work, service, and faith. One such conversation was with the leadership of First Church UCC in Phoenix. During our conversation, the Rev. Susan Valiquette, First UCC’s pastor, shared with us the benediction she concludes each service with:
“The service has ended, now let the service begin.”
I was instantly struck by the meaning and directive behind this turn of phrase. It reminds us that once the worship service has concluded our service to humankind begins, our true work as Christians. It is the work that exists beyond the walls of the church, in our homes, in our schools, and in our workplaces, educating, healing, and fighting for justice. It is the work of CHHSM’s more than 400 health and human service programs and communities that together in 2020 served more than 2.8 million individuals —including 21,490 children, 19,710 youth, 16,498 families, 33,581 older adults, and 3,717 veterans.
As recent headlines decry the impact swiftly rising consumer prices and runaway inflation rates have on working class families, the aid our organizations provide to individuals and families is critical. According to a recent CNN article, “the price of groceries, gas, rent and utilities has marched higher over the past year; but wages have not kept up … with daily life now the most expensive it’s been in 40 years.”
This on top of the pandemic, the CNN story continues, which has already “pushed America toward higher rates of food insecurity, a trend that has only accelerated with the recent surge in inflation: in March, nearly two-thirds of the 200 Feeding America food banks reported an increase in demand for food assistance.”
CHHSM agencies like Clay Street Table are on the front lines of this struggle. Clay Street, for example, provides some 140,000 meals and groceries to youth and adults in Portland each year.
Together, the agencies of CHHSM provide over $1 billion in uncompensated charitable care each year, and their work represents the UCC in action: faith and love demonstrated through service to those in need. In my short time with CHHSM, I find myself humbled by the impact our agencies are making in their communities, and I am honored to join them in service.
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