One Voice

Michael J. Readinger

Michael J. Readinger

The CHHSM Annual Gathering has come and gone. But, for those of us who attended last week in St. Louis, the voices we heard will stick with us for quite a while. So many voices, from so many places, across so many miles, in more than one language. All coming together. As. One. Voice.

Before the meeting started, we hosted a delegation of five leaders of Diakonie — Rheinland, Westphalia, Lippe (RWL) for three days of ministry tours. It was clear that we have so many similarities and so many differences in the way we afford care to the needy we serve. The type of care and delivery systems are often the same, yet the needs and payment systems are quite disparate. One thing is certain, their impressions of our ministries and of their trip to the USA will stay with them for a long time. Both of our organizations voiced a commitment to continue exploring, developing and advancing our relationship and our partnership.

On Wednesday, the Child and Family Services affinity group met to discuss advocacy and best practices in their service sector. At the same time, our German Diakonie delegation experienced a “partners in ministry” tour that showcased the power of collaboration between our ministries in finding unique solutions to delivering services to those they care for. All in all, it was a powerful day of sharing best practices and strategizing for the future. The day ended with a dinner that introduced our German guests to the Board of Directors and the simultaneous arrival of many of the meeting attendees.

On Thursday, the board met at lunch with our denomination’s General Minister and President, Rev. John Dorhauer and the Diakonie guests. All attendees were able to share stories of their ministry settings and the opportunities to advance the Three Great Loves initiative of the UCC. Separately, the current class of the Nollau Institute held their final meeting as a group of servant leaders in advance of their presentations of their final projects and consecration as Diakonal Ministers.

Shortly after lunch, we boarded buses to the opening worship and consecration of the Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being. From the highly energized and spiritual dancing and the procession through the space at the beginning; to the singing and speeches of welcome; to the worship, scripture, message, consecration and blessings we shared — it was a meaningful, community-based event that launched the advocacy theme of the Annual Gathering and set the stage for all we are as the passion driven movement of health and human service ministry in the UCC. Once we got back to the hotel, the opening dinner continued the time of welcome, hospitality, fellowship and celebration.

Friday brought us together again for our workshops on advocacy and technology, our plenary session from our Advocacy panel, our Diakonie RWL partner presentation, and a session on care for the elderly presented by Ziegler. The evening ended with the Missouri Mid-South/ Illinois South Gateway Celebration dinner. More than 150 people attended the buffet dinner with St. Louis area themed food followed by live music (Bag Lunch Blues Band) and dancing. It was a fitting end to a long day that also lifted up important news about area CHHSM organizations.

On Saturday, we enjoyed presentations by three small groups from the current class of Nollau Institute participants. The groups focused on advocacy, millennials in the workplace and the culture/organization change methodology called Gracious Space. A highlight of the day was the keynote address by the Rev. Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation. Our closing worship followed. It included communion led by the Rev. Ginny Brown Daniel, a reflection by the Rev. Sheila Guillome, live music played by the Rev. Julie Jennings and her partner, the Rev. Susan Drake, and the consecration of our Diakonal Ministers.

Thanks to everyone who made the 2018 CHHSM Annual Gathering possible and successful: all those who planned and executed it, all those who spoke, preached, taught and shared, all those who supported it financially as sponsors and partners, and especially those who attended. Please take a moment to view the slideshow (at the link that follows) to see some of the memories and highlights from St. Louis. It is the CHHSM Board and Staff’s hope that it was time and money well spent by you in remembering the WHY it is that we gather! Start your planning and budgeting for 2019 in Chicago now!

Visit CHHSM’s Resource Library to access the presentation materials and photos from the Annual Gathering.

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