Special Worship Liturgy and Prayers Included in Resources for Health and Human Service Sunday, Jan. 31
Each year, the United Church of Christ designates a Sunday in January as the time to lift up the rich history and gifts of Health and Human Service ministries across the church. This year, Health and Human Service Sunday takes place on the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Jan. 31.
A special liturgy designed by the Rev. Elyse Berry, D.Min., of the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, is one way local churches can celebrate both the more than 400 CHHSM ministries across the country as well as the serving leadership each church provides to its own local community.
“As we enter into the new year, one of the phrases we’ve been using to ground us is ‘together in hope,’ which is not only the theme for the 2021 CHHSM Annual Gathering but is showing up in so much of the work that we do,” says Berry, CHHSM’s associate for advocacy and leadership development. “The Health and Human Service Sunday’s liturgy is another expression of that togetherness and hopefulness, whether it be in the more ordinary prayer of confession or the unique elements we’ve added in light of the pandemic.”
Particularly in a year marked by the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism, the Health and Human Service liturgy provides a way to honor and pray for people on the front lines who are working for health, wholeness, and justice. The service’s “Litany of Gratitude for Essential Workers” lifts in prayer sanitation works, mask makers, healthcare workers, caregivers, funeral directors, food service workers, farmers, postal workers, teachers, poets, musicians, artists, chaplains, activists, protestors, organizers, poll workers, policy-writers, and journalists, among others. The liturgy closes with a prayer for the continued work of healing and service.
“Health and Human Service Sunday lifts up the vital role that front-line workers in particular play — in CHHSM member ministries and beyond — as they respond to the crises of our day,” says the Rev. George Graham, CHHSM vice president. “While this is true every year, it is especially poignant this year. As front-line workers become vulnerable themselves in responding to others who are vulnerable, we recognize and honor the healing, support, and care they provide.”
To help churches celebrate during worship, the lectionary passages, liturgy, and graphics for church bulletins can be downloaded on CHHSM’s Health and Human Service Sunday page.
“Health and Human Service Sunday is an opportunity for the church to create awareness about the justice issues in health care, and share information about various health and human service ministries,” says Michael J. Readinger, CHHSM president and CEO. “Not only do CHHSM members provide health care and human services; they also advocate for the people they serve. This year has drawn attention to the racist health disparities plaguing our world. Health and Human Service Sunday recognizes the many people who work to create just and equitable health care every day.”
One way CHHSM is working to end systemic racism is through a resolution submitted for consideration to the UCC’s General Synod, which will take place virtually in July 2021. The resolution calls upon all settings of the United Church of Christ to declare and respond to systemic racism as a public health crisis.
Often founded by local UCC congregations, CHHSM members include health care centers; affordable housing and retirement communities; homeless shelters; service centers for children, youth and families; care agencies for people with developmental disabilities; and acute care hospitals. The liturgy for Health and Human Service Sunday not only honors all CHHSM agencies and staff members, it also “envisions a future for them where there is rest and rejuvenation, because we as the community will help it be so,” says Berry.
“Through the power and beauty of worship, we get to uplift the lifesaving ministries of our CHHSM members, as we bring both their service and their needs before God and the whole UCC community in prayer,” Berry adds. “Especially at such a time as this, it is important to remember that ‘liturgy’ means ‘work of the people,’ and this special Sunday is a way to acknowledge the collective work bringing healing to our world.”
Access resources for Health and Human Service Sunday.
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