Michael J. Readinger

Michael J. Readinger

Why all this talk about transformation? Because transformation is the only constant that exists in our lives. Transformation happens at every level, starting with our personal interactions, friendships and networks, which have profound impacts on our world views. We are also informed and influenced by the social, political and legal environment that shapes our society. We must respond to macro and microeconomic forces in our financial dealings and in our business practices as well.

There is no still-frame snapshot of the true impact that our ever-changing world and world view has on the way we express ourselves and live out our vocations. However, this dynamic is the essence of transformation, manifested in our passion-driven movement in the health and human service ministry we share. Despite the many influences that impact each of us, the ultimate driving force of all that we do in this field relates to those we serve.

The importance of our work in ministry is illustrated with a prophecy in Matthew 25:31-46. When Christ returns and gathers the people together, they will be separated into two groups: one that will inherit the blessings of salvation and one that won’t. The division is made based on the way we treat each other. The inheritors of salvation ask how they were placed in this group, to which Christ answers: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” The inheritors of salvation don’t remember seeing Christ through their lives and work but are instructed that, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

Of course “we want to be remembered with the sheep on the right hand of God and not with the goats on the left.” Of course we want to be inheritors of the kingdom we are promised, but our motivation is more worldy in the near term, fueled by the desire to heal and serve. Our individual mission statements seek to manifest the theological roots of our call to faith-based service, drawing us to care for the needy. But beyond this call, we are constantly assessing the “how.”

Transformation is the “how.” Transformation is the crossroad between our call to serve and the challenges of the world. Mission statements change over time as new methods of serving needy emerge. Our staffing and business models are adapted as we progress. We may need to restate our by-laws, we may need to alter our strategies around communication and we may need to take a serious look inward to make sure that we are truly serving the “least of these.”

Finding ways to serve in this world is what transformation is about. That is what we will share as a community when we gather in Cleveland for the 77th CHHSM Annual Meeting March 5-7, 2015.

We will learn about two organizations in the real world that address governance and business model transformation and adaptation as an expression of their missions. We will explore our relationship to the core values of the United Church of Christ as we seek a greater understanding of our society’s evolution in the areas of racism, classism and privilege. We will look ahead at emerging demographics that support a need to be more open and inclusive of those we serve as well as those who support our work. We will explore our relationship to the wider church as we seek ways to strengthen our connection to the faith community from which our ministries were born. All of these plenary and workshop sessions will be informational, but will then afford the opportunity for dialogue around the manner in which we can craft real-life, tangible methods for infusing these culture-changing ideas into our daily work lives.

Yes, we are all open to new ideas and aware of the transforming society and business climate in which we live. Come to Cleveland and engage with your friends in ministry to push each other, pull each other, and challenge ourselves toward a new and leading edge expression of extravagant welcome, changing lives and the continuing testament that Jesus taught us.

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