The Last Dance

Michael J. Readinger

As I began writing this piece, it occurred to me that this will probably be my last column as CHHSM’s President and CEO. The Donna Summer classic, “Last Dance,” immediately came to my mind (you all know what a scary place my mind can be at times!) so I decided that would be a good title for this column.

As I said previously, there is a strong possibility our paths will cross again. But, if this our last exchange, the primary message I want to write is to say “Thank You” from the bottom of my heart. You have all touched me deeply, made me a better person, given so much of yourselves, and taught me so much.

Thank you to the current CHHSM Staff Team. George, Paula, Elyse, Essence, Rion, Barb and Tyler — you are all rock stars, and I am confident you will continue to excel in new and exciting ways in the years ahead. I would be remiss if I did not mention members of the team in the past 17 plus years who were true gifts to me and the organization. Bryan, Shirley, Ted, Lorraine, Bill, Loey, Ben and others — I thank you!

Thank you to the CHHSM Board members across all these years. You challenged me, you trusted me, you supported me, you fought for me and with me, you really worked together to create a just, caring, and compassionate world. No names here but if you ever served on the CHHSM Board in the last 17 plus years, please know I sat here and thought about all of you as I was writing this column.

Thanks to my Nollau Leadership Institute/Faith Based Leadership Institute/Transformational Leadership Program Family. Fellow participants in my class shaped my CHHSM career from my first year. Graduates of the programs touched my life for nearly 2 decades. My fellow faculty members over all the years have taught me so much about leadership, friendship, theology, spirituality, worship and education.

Thank you to our United Church of Christ, National Benevolent Association, and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) partners. Your faith, innovation, camaraderie, and partnership over these years have been a transformative gift that has kept CHHSM relevant and sustainable. You continuously asked me “Why Not”? And, so often, that resulted in something truly special.

Thank you to my Interfaith Roundtable peers. Our respective roles are so similar and yet, so different. But time and time again we came together, as a group or individually, to support, push, teach, listen, and learn as a community of faith.

Thank you to the many covenant and corporate partners who have helped us create services and programs that have advanced our organizations and saved countless dollars for our members and their employees.

Thank you to the association executives I have been blessed to work with and partner with all these years. The things I learned from my attendance at the education sessions and plenaries at their gatherings have been instrumental in my leadership formation and have guided so many of my major management decisions.

Thanks to my FLOG (Facebook Log) readers and all their commentaries on my posts for these last 4-plus years. I started these posts as a mindfulness exercise for myself and it has really turned into a little online community of love, mutual support, a few sarcastic comments, some laughs, and some tears.

Thank you to my Husband Bob Vinkler for standing behind me and beside every step of the way on this journey. Bob has been my confidante, my soulmate, my airport chauffeur, my mentor (and my tormentor), my friend, my biggest supporter and my biggest critic. I could not have done this without you, Bob.

My Family has been a tremendous support system all these years. They may not really understand who I work for (“what’s the name of that Church you work for” and “are you a priest”?), but they have been authentically inquisitive and have attended CHHSM events when they could. So, thank you to my brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, and nephews!

Thanks be to God for giving me the opportunity to work at CHHSM and to become the President and CEO. My life has been blessed with a great support system of family and friends. I have always had a strong desire to learn, read and study in order to gain a solid education as the basis for a successful adult life. I have been lucky time and again with making the right choices and with good health. I thank God for all of that and for showing me how important faith is in guiding us through our lives.

I have one last favor to ask you all. Please offer a heart-felt, warm and supportive welcome to Jamar Doyle when you meet him and begin working with him in his new role as CHHSM President and CEO. It was your love and support that aided me in my first days and I am certain that Jamar will benefit from your wisdom, guidance and friendship.

So, thank you all for everything we have shared all these years. This column is my Last Dance, but it almost certainly is not the last time we will meet. I hope to see many of you at the CHHSM Annual Gathering in Louisville and in the next 10 weeks. Until we meet again, Peace and Blessings!


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