I’m writing this on my way to St. Louis for the Annual Gathering of “CHHSM” – the United Church of Christ’s Council on Health and Human Service Ministries. CHHSM is comprised of 70+ member agencies offering services ranging from adoption and child daycare, to affordable housing, healthcare and senior services. Each of these agencies has its origin story in the commitment of a particular local church, to address the needs of its immediate community. Many of these agencies are leaders in their field of service. They are the church, truly at work in the world around us. (see www.chhsm.org for more information about CHHSM ministries).
Rev. Louis Edward Nollau is often considered the “forefather” of health and human service ministry in our UCC tradition. He arrived in St. Louis in the 1800’s from Germany. When his plans to travel west for missionary service were thwarted, he became pastor of a local church. An epidemic of cholera struck the region. Many children were orphaned as a result. Nollau appealed to his church leadership to take these children in. His church council responded, “But we don’t have the resources for that.” Rev. Nollau replied, “Yes, but we have the children.” It wasn’t long before the church found a way to serve those children and many more in their community.
Nollau’s spirit of willingness, persistence and innovation was exactly what was needed in what must have been a very anxious time and place. I’m reminded of Nollau’s reply, “…we have the children,” as we listen for the voices of high school students in Parkland, FL. after the most recent mass school shooting, the voices of students in the Kerio Valley crying out for intervention against tribal violence, the voices of those who speak out against sexual abuse and the mistreatment of women, those who persist in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and many others. Their voices are rising up, too often met by the “we can’ts” and “we won’ts” of those in positions of power.
What about the church? How might Nollau’s persistence inform our response to those around us? It gives me such hope to see what our UCC ministries are accomplishing across this country through CHHSM, even as many of you inspire me with your commitment to mission and outreach in the Fox Valley. We may not always have the resources we wish for, but we do have the children. May God bless us with open ears, open hearts and open minds as we listen for their voices.
Your friend and fellow minister,
Pastor Kathryn Kuhn