Below is a statement from the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries of the United Church of Christ. — Kirsten Peachey
For the past three months, we have been writing regularly to provide updates and encouragement as you address the COVID-19 pandemic. Events during those months have revealed in starkest terms another pandemic, and that is the shameful and troubling disease of systemic racism.
The violent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are only the most recent manifestations of the ugly legacy of white supremacy, which goes back before the founding of our country. The disproportionate way in which COVID-19 is affecting communities of color, as well as others who are the most vulnerable in our society, is another indicator of injustice in our nation.
We left our Annual Gathering in early March with renewed hope for “Justice and Grace—Together.” Events since then have shown us how far we have to go as a nation to find justice or grace, much less hold them together. Indeed, much of what has occurred is the absolute opposite of CHHSM’s vision of a just, caring, and compassionate world.
Part of the heritage of the United Church of Christ is responding early and bearing witness in the midst of social injustice. Many of our CHHSM organizations were born by the church in response to crisis—whether it was the cholera epidemic, the Spanish flu, or children who lost parents due to war. All of our organizations were born of need and continue to respond to basic human needs for shelter, food, health care, human connection, or spiritual care.
We are in a time of crisis, which requires a bold response. Unlike COVID-19, we know that systemic racism is not caused by a novel virus, nor will a vaccine cure it. It is much more intractable and insidious. Though many have been working on this issue for years, we still need all hands on deck for widespread system reform, which will require sustained ingenuity and courage.
For our sisters and brothers who are African American, and all communities of color, we see you and we hear you. We understand if you are not OK, and we want to say that racism in any form is unacceptable.
We as the CHHSM Board and Staff recommit ourselves to fighting systemic racism and white supremacy. At our meeting this week, the Board and Staff made the following commitments:
- CHHSM will make a financial commitment to one or more organizations that work to eliminate systemic racism.
- The Board and Staff pledge to live out our commitments to racial equity personally and in our local communities as well as organizationally.
- The Staff will develop a plan for a racial equity audit of the organization and engage the Board in that work.
- We will develop a list of resources to assist you. These include Sacred Conversations to End Racism, the UCC Justice and Peace Action Network, and Our Faith Our Vote. We will also be announcing a Zoom book study group in the very near future (more details to come.)
- This will be the first of an ongoing series of communications focused on racial equity efforts in which we provide updates on our work, suggest resources, etc.
We recognize the hard work that many of our members are already doing toward bringing about racial justice. We invite you to share with us your stories, photos, and resources you have found helpful. We encourage you to visit Our Faith Our Vote to ensure those who are elected nationally and locally are committed to this work.
We know many of you are very weary. We hope that we can provide encouragement as you navigate your way through both the coronavirus pandemic and the pandemic of racism. Please let us know how we can support your ministries.
Together, let us work together until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream (Amos 5:24). Together, let us create a just, caring, and compassionate world.
If you would like to add your signature to this letter, please email your name, organization (if you would like one listed), and city/state to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CHHSM Board and Staff
Abbreial P. Drane, Seven Counties Services, Bellewood and Brooklawn, Louisville, KY—Chair
Michelle Just, Beatitudes Campus, Phoenix, AZ—Vice Chair
Jay Biere, LaGrange Park, IL—Treasurer
Rev. Dr. Monica Dawkins Smith, Harrisburg, PA
Stephanie Franklin, UCAN, Chicago, IL
Rev. Jason Emmerson, Evansville, IN
Rev. Darrell Goodwin, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota Conferences, UCC
Rev. Sheila Guillaume, Union Congregational UCC, West Palm Beach, FL
Rev. Monica Wedlock Kilpatrick, National Benevolent Association of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Conyers, GA
Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, United Church Homes, Marion, OH
Rev. Dr. Laverne Joseph, Retirement Housing Foundation, Long Beach, CA
Rev. Dr. Kirsten Peachey, Chicago, IL
Sandy Sorenson, UCC Justice and Witness Ministries, Washington, DC
Rev. Robert Symanski, Thomasville, NC
Kenney Washington, Back Bay Mission, Biloxi, MS
Kyle Zanker, Crossroad Child & Family Services, Fort Wayne, IN
Michael J. Readinger—President and CEO
Rev. George R. Graham—Vice President
Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry—Associate for Advocacy and Leadership Development
Paula Barker—Executive Assistant for Events and Administration
Barbara A. Powell—Communications Consultant
Tyler Hoffman—Digital Solutions Consultant
Essence Ellis—Jerry W. Paul CHHSM Scholar
Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, UCC
700 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115