Race, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging, and Justice!

Michael J. Readinger

As you may be aware by now, CHHSM has made some significant progress in its efforts toward dismantling racism and white supremacy systems in the last year. Our Race, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (RDEI) work has just begun and will be a long-term, lifelong commitment that will require changing the way people, organizations and systems think, process, and operate. It is a heavy task, and I am encouraged that CHHSM has so many partners talking the talk and walking the walk beside us. It will take individual and collective efforts for each and every one of us to accomplish any of this work. As I reflect on our 2022 Annual Gathering theme and the scripture we selected to accompany it — Philippians 3:13 passage, “Straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal”— I see a strong correlation between the two.

One of the things I have been thinking about recently is all the acronyms people use in naming their focus in this work. RDEI, RDEIJ, REDI, RIDE, BRIDE, DIRE (look at the words in the title of this column for definitions) and others I may not have seen yet. Don’t be dismayed by the different ways of naming how we are working to transform ourselves and our society. We all have a common and rather daunting goal — to become a Fully Inclusive, Anti-Racist, Multicultural Organization in a Transformed Society. We are all working on this in our own way, at our own speed, with our own competencies and our own deficiencies. The point is that our collective and collaborative efforts can and will begin to have an impact. The progression towards change may be minute or dramatic, but it will happen if we continue to intentionally focus on this important work. And it is work! So, no matter what you call it, “Just Do It”! (Thanks Nike.)

This version of a famous online graphic was created by Angus Maguire, based on a graphic designed by Craig Frohle in 2012.

I also think a lot about the WHY. “Some … see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’ ” (Thanks, RFK.) Why should we do this RDEI work? Why does it matter?

The answer to the WHY question is contained in scriptural and theological reflections, and in social justice practice. I will leave the reflections part of the answer to each of you individually as your faith calls you in that space. The practice part of the answer is your basic and most fundamental understanding of all that is at the core of what RDEI means to you. I am not writing this as a means of telling you WHY, but as a challenge to you to articulate your own personal or organizational WHY.

If you would like to hear CHHSM’s WHY, please plan to attend our RDEI Workshop at the 2022 CHHSM Annual Gathering in Louisville in March. The CHHSM WHY is too long to share in a column, and I bet yours would be as well. I am happy to share ours and I would love to hear from you if you would care to share yours with me. In summary, let your faith guide you and let social justice be your lantern on this journey. “The time is always right to do what is right.” (Thanks MLK, Jr.)

We are constantly thinking about and implementing ways to keep our focus on the RDEI initiative. CHHSM’s mission, vision and values align with our commitments to this work. Our value proposition tells us this is what our members need us to do. Our strategic plan and recommended actions in this area are being integrated into one comprehensive road map to guide our actions in the years ahead. The CHHSM Board and Staff have committed to multiple trainings that will inform our work and have created an equity lens tool to use in our work. The Board voted to create a standing RDEI Committee that will hold us accountable every step of the way going forward.

I believe we have done what we need to do to equip ourselves to embark on this journey. It will not be easy, but it will make us stronger and better. It will make us more just, caring, and compassionate. It will make the world more anti-racist, one day at a time. It is up to all of us.

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CHHSM Board and Staff are grieved to learn of the death of our friend and colleague, Greg Watson, who died in October 2022. Greg was vice president of operations for Embrace Living Communities, based in Oak Brook, Ill.Greg was a graduate of CHHSM’s Nollau Leadership Institute, class of 2018-2019, and was consecrated as a Diakonal Minister during our 2019 Annual Gathering in Chicago. In an article about his class in June 2018 — not long after the group’s first retreat — Greg said, “The best part is not only beginning the process of clarifying your calling; but also, understanding and accepting one’s personal strength. Recognition of one’s ‘true' self enables us to serve from a place of wholeness.”Greg also served on the CHHSM Board of Directors, and was a beloved friend and colleague to many in the CHHSM family. Embrace Living stated on its website, “Greg was an outstanding servant leader for 17 years at Embrace Living Communities. He will be greatly missed.”CHHSM sends its prayers and love to Greg’s friends, family, and Embrace Living colleagues. ... See MoreSee Less
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