Michael J. Readinger

The theme of last week’s CHHSM Annual Gathering in Chicago was “Toward Tomorrow — Together We Learn, Together We Flourish.” And, that is exactly what happened. Like everything in life, the time you spend in community is shaped by your own reality. At the CHHSM Annual Gathering, you get out of it what you put into it!

Here’s what I got out of my time spent together with my health and human service ministry peers:

On Sunday night, the CHHSM team huddled for dinner and a final pass at planning the days ahead. I realized once again how powerful our small group is and that we are truly all on the same page. Gratitude and thanks to George, Paula, Tyler, Peggy, Emily and Barb for putting all of this together and executing it with radical hospitality and intentionality.

Monday’s Diakonal Minister Reunion Retreat was a wonderful day of reflection on the intersection of leadership and spirituality and the exploration of intentional Sabbath. Fifteen Diakonal Ministers — graduates of the Transformational Leadership Program, Faith-Based Leadership Institute and Nollau Leadership Institute — came together with open minds and hearts. We set our cell phones in a basket, let go of the day behind and were filled with new (or maybe forgotten) ideas of personal and professional Sabbath practices. To quote a wise graduate of the Nollau Class of 2018-19, “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” So, learn how to refill and renew yourself regularly!

Tuesday’s Affinity Group sessions were CHHSM coming together at its best, as thought leaders from our member ministries led attendees through a morning of sharing, strategizing and planning future meetings and joint activities. There really is power in the collective intelligence of a group with shared values. I look forward to the next steps in our approach to affordable housing issues and child, youth and family services.

The opening worship celebration was a beautiful way to focus on the theme of the meeting and remember the importance of our faith heritage. The 75th, 150th and 175th anniversaries of the founding of Plymouth Place, UCAN — Chicago and St. Paul’s UCC are examples of the prophetic leadership from decades ago that manifests itself every time we look at the work our church is doing today.

The various plenaries and workshops were led by people from our member ministries and from our denomination. We have all the talent, knowledge, commitment and strategic thinking we need to deliver meaningful content and inspiration to our attendees. It was truly a blessing to watch, listen and learn from our session leaders — and each other.

One of the highlights, and most important sessions, is the CHHSM Annual Business meeting. In addition to all the reports and recognitions that are so great to hear and receive, we welcomed one new corporate member (Isaiah 58 Ministries) and membership voted to revise the Code of Regulations to allow Individual Memberships. The Individual Membership platform is a wonderful way to increase our engagement to the UCC, the wider church and our ecumenical partners. Please go to the website to review the benefits and terms of membership and apply now.

On Thursday, we prepared to head back to our respective homes and ministry settings. Part of that preparation came as we discussed the CHHSM Strategic Plan in a generative session where members committed to participate in some way. We received more than 50 written commitments from attendees who expressed a willingness to be a part of the work the world is calling us to do. We are truly blessed with a large cadre of servant leaders who are always willing to step up and assist in this passion-driven movement. And, as we learned at the closing worship, that group is getting bigger every year as we consecrated 15 new Diakonal Ministers from the Nollau Leadership Institute Class of 2018-2019.

I don’t know about you, but I got a lot out of this year’s meeting. I can hardly wait until next year when we gather again in Memphis, Tenn., from March 3-5, 2020. Save the Date y’all!

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