The UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries has announced that its 2021 83rd Annual Gathering is going virtual. The meeting, centering around the theme, “Together in Hope,” will be held online March 2-4, 2021.

“In the face of loss and violence as a result of the two pandemics currently affecting our country — COVID-19 and the scourge of systemic racism — we are all in need of hope,” says Michael J. Readinger, CHHSM president and CEO. “Together we will look for ways to renew our hope and offer signs of hope to others.”

CHHSM decided on the theme “before we knew we would be holding the Annual Gathering virtually,” adds the Rev. George R. Graham, CHHSM vice president. In addition to holding out hope during a tumultuous time, the theme lifts up the sense of togetherness, he says.

“We know from talking with members that part of what people value most about CHHSM is the sense that we are all together,” Graham says. “We are going to work really hard to make sure that even though the Annual Gathering is virtual, people will still have a sense of being together. We can join ‘together in hope’ whether or not we are physically in the same location.”

The Annual Gathering will utilize an online platform conducive to the types of small group meetings, workshops, and worship typical of an in-person event.

“Our benchmark is to create the best virtual annual gathering ever,” says Tyler Hoffman, CHHSM’s digital solutions consultant. “For that to occur, we have to look past traditional video conferencing tools, and instead reach for a solution dedicated to robust online events. These platforms seek to mirror as much of the in-person experience as possible, while incorporating the convenience and innovation of technology.”

For example, Hoffman says, traditional audience Q&A will be elevated with real-time chat, polling and contests. Spontaneous networking will be facilitated with ad-hoc video meet-ups and robust attendee profiles. Exhibition booths will be even more useful, with embedded videos and resources — no power cable needed.

“I’m excited to take the best of the annual gathering experience and use technology to push it past its usual boundaries,” adds Hoffman.

The online events will include Annual Gathering workshops, which will be via a Request for Proposal (RFP) process. Workshop proposals related to the theme should be submitted by Oct. 30, 2020. CHHSM will communicate selections by Nov. 20.

Originally, the Gathering was to be held at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky. The hotel has allowed CHHSM to bump back its reservation until 2022 in order to facilitate the upcoming virtual Annual Gathering.

The Annual Gathering section of the CHHSM website will be updated regularly with additional details.

Submit an Annual Gathering workshop RFP.