One of the highlights of CHHSM’s 2019 Annual Gathering, held March 5-7 in Chicago, was the welcoming of its latest member, Isaiah 58 Ministries, based in St. Louis. During the CHHSM business meeting held March 6, Isaiah 58 was voted unanimously into membership.
“Isaiah 58 Ministries is excited to become a member of CHHSM,” says the Rev. Brenda Booth, executive director. “We believe the ministry will benefit greatly from this membership as we seek to increase and improve our relationship with the United Church of Christ as well as develop our ministry leadership.”
Founded in the early 1970s, Isaiah 58 Ministries began in south St. Louis city as the 4 Church Association — an effort of four local churches in the area — in order to meet the needs of low-income individuals through such direct services as a food pantry, clothing closet, and utilities assistance. The Rev. George R. Graham, CHHSM vice president, remembers the powerful sense of ministry in the program in its earlier days.
“In the summer of 1985, I lived in St. Louis as part of an urban ministry summer program,” says Graham. “There were 10 of us in the program. I was assigned to a ministry on the north side, but a friend of mine in the program was assigned to the 4 Church Association. I visited the program on July 4 that summer and helped serve Meals on Wheels to a number of residents. I could feel the agency’s true sense of call to its work.”
That intimate connection with the surrounding community still drives Isaiah 58 Ministries today. The UCC’s regional Missouri Mid-South Conference helps provide funding, and CHHSM member Deaconess Nurse Ministry works in partnership with Isaiah 58, providing nurses “to help people with their health issues and with seniors to get more financial resources in their homes,” says the Rev. Donna Smith-Pupillo, executive director. “Just recently, we got grant funding to have a nurse there two days a week to help with health screenings, education, and case management for all, but most importantly, for the seniors who go there for services.”
The Missouri Mid-South Conference sponsored Isaiah 58 Ministries’ CHHSM membership, an easy decision, says the Rev. Ginny Brown Daniel, conference minister. “I have known about Isaiah 58 Ministries since I began as conference minister in 2015 because so many of our UCC churches in south St. Louis are involved in this vital ministry. The Rev. Brenda Booth and the Rev. Meredith Jackson [interim hunger program director] are both servant leaders who reflect the mission of CHHSM. Our Conference Council formally endorsed Isaiah 58 Ministries because of our shared commitment to stand with low-income individuals in St. Louis.”
Today, Isaiah 58 Ministries continues to meet the physical and spiritual needs of its community through various outreach programs. In addition to the food pantry, it also runs a twice-weekly fresh food distribution, a thrift store with gently used clothing items, and numerous other holiday and back-to-school programs.
“We are thrilled to welcome Isaiah 58 Ministries to CHHSM,” says Michael J. Readinger, president and CEO. “We look forward to learning from and partnering with Isaiah 58 as we look toward tomorrow together.”
For Booth, an added bonus to CHHSM membership is connecting with others in faith-based leadership roles. To that end, she will be part of the 2019-2020 class of CHHSM’s Nollau Leadership Institute.
“I am eager to make connections with other CHHSM agencies and learn from the collective wisdom of others who serve in faith-based, nonprofit management,” Booth says. “Serving in this capacity can often feel isolating, and I believe having a professional network of other leaders will benefit both the individuals in the ministry as well as the ministry as a whole. We also look forward to building relationships and utilizing the many resources available through CHHSM.”