Racial Equity, COVID-19 Ramifications to Focus Workshop Topics for CHHSM’s Annual Gathering

The UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries is planning a variety of meaningful workshops during its virtual Annual Gathering — Together in Hope — which takes place online March 2-4, 2021. The workshops, offered by several CHHSM members and partners, are designed to include presentations as well as real-time discussion on topics affecting CHHSM health and human service professionals across the country.

Erica Merritt, founder and principal consultant of the Equius Group LLC, will offer a workshop on racial equity and justice. Equius Group LLC will be conducting CHHSM’s Race, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Assessment in 2021. The workshop at the Annual Gathering is geared toward leaders of CHHSM members and bringing the ideas of racial equity into their own organizations.

Erica Merritt

“Many leaders are wondering how they go from talking and thinking about equity to putting it into practice,” says Merritt. “Practicing Equity Competent Leadership means understanding the dynamics of power and privilege and proactively embodying attitudes and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, impact and outcomes for all. This workshop will introduce and explore the equity competent leadership model.”

In the same vein, the Rev. Elyse Berry, D.Min., CHHSM’s associate for advocacy and leadership development, will offer “Reason to Have Hope: A Public Health Response to Racism.” The workshop will help participants learn how to frame racism as a public health crisis in advocacy efforts, and why it is important to do so.

“Though racism’s impact on health is certainly not news to those working in the public health and racial justice spheres,” says Berry, “the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exemplified health disparities in a way that can no longer be ignored by the country as a whole, and especially in the church.”

Clockwise from top left: Darlene Sowell, Unleashing Potential; Michelle Just, Beatitudes; Donna Smith-Pupillo, Deaconess Nurse Ministry; and David Mullins, Crossroad.

Four CHHSM members will be co-presenting a panel discussion workshop during the Annual Gathering. The panelists include Michelle Just, CEO of Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix; Darlene Sowell, CEO of Unleashing Potential in St. Louis; and the Rev. Donna Smith-Pupillo, RN, executive director of Deaconess Nurse Ministry in St. Louis. Facilitated by David Mullins, incoming president and CEO of Crossroad Child and Family Services in Fort Wayne, Ind., the conversation will center on how CHHSM members can emerge from the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism. Topics covered will include managing vaccination policies, how to prepare for any new COVID-related surges, how to combat the health disparities created by racism and other isms, and how to help clients and staff overcome barriers to access and wellbeing.

Back by popular demand will be an updated workshop on historical trauma led by Niquanna Barnett, individual and family therapist at Orion Family Services in Madison, Wis. The workshop will help attendees gain a better understanding of how past events have shaped the culture of different ethnicities, and of how to combat the effects of racism, prejudice, microaggressions, and misogyny. “It is important for anyone working in the helping fields to have cultural competency, and knowledge of historical trauma is a significant part of that,” Barnett says.

Complementary to the historical trauma workshop will be “Using a Trauma-Informed Lens to Create Hope,” offered by the Rev. Samantha Jewell, chaplain at Bellewood & Brooklawn in Louisville, Ky. The workshop will discuss transforming agencies into more trauma-informed organizations. It also will examine the impact of trauma and adverse childhood experiences on functioning and introduce strategies to build resiliency and hope in clients and staff.

The Rev. Scott Brooks-Cope, director of pastoral care for Phoebe — based in Allentown, Pa. — will run a workshop on spiritual care for staff and residents amidst crises like COVID-19. “This will include assessing the level of trauma of staff and residents; providing spiritual care in completely new ways; and promoting ways of healing trauma among pastoral staff in the midst of large-scale grief and anxiety,” he says.

In a special workshop session, United Church Funds, in collaboration with the UCC’s philanthropy team, will offer a financial workshop called “What will Stewardship and Finance Look Like Post COVID?” Pointing out that the “new normal” of COVID will linger for some time, the workshop will look at the ways nonprofits and religious organizations will be challenged to continue managing operations and funding programs and ministries, even after a vaccine is distributed. The workshop will discuss stewardship and financial issues and will highlight new ideas and opportunities in the areas of fundraising, development, and portfolio/endowment management.

Rounding out the selection of Annual Gathering workshops will be two offerings on maintaining healthy organizations and staff amidst crises.

Brandyn Simmons

Brandyn Simmons, executive director of CHHSM member Generations Care Partners Foundation, will discuss “avoiding compassion fatigue and burnout in social justice, health care, and nonprofit settings. “As our current events and social climate have called us to action, there is a great danger of running ourselves ragged for great causes,” Simmons says. “This workshop will show participants how to do what they’re called to do without becoming a martyr.”

Additionally, the Rev. Nicole Havelka will lead “Visioning Hope: Grounding in Your Purpose,” a workshop that looks at how challenging times often are the perfect opportunity to reaffirm an organization’s core purpose. Participants will “go through a supported process of identifying why they do their work [and] lean into the discomfort of barriers,” says Havelka,  in order to “reaffirm organizational core purpose and values, learn practices that alleviate stress, and develop creative strategies for moving forward.”

The Annual Gathering workshops focus on all aspects of working “Together in Hope,” says Michael J. Readinger, CHHSM president and CEO.

“These workshops offer a chance for everyone at the Annual Gathering to learn and grow, but also to go forward with new insights and a renewed sense of hope,” Readinger says. “They are just one way the 2021 Annual Gathering will explore new ways for CHHSM to create a just, caring and compassionate world.”

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