The Rev. Roger Meiller, Evangelical Homes of Michigan’s director of religious services (third from the right) and Earl Roehm, UCC member and EHM board member (second from the right) with UCC church members and Evangelical Homes of Michigan church ambassadors.
Written by: The Council for Health and Human Service Ministries
Many of Denise Rabidoux’s most creative thoughts pop up in the middle of the night. That was how Rabidoux, CEO of Evangelical Homes of Michigan, a CHHSM ministry, got the idea to combine its annual September meeting with the annual October meeting of the Michigan United Church of Christ Conference.
She presented the idea to conference leadership. “I asked, ‘Am I crazy? Do you think this would ever work?’”
They decided it was worth trying, she says, and in October the combined meeting took place in Detroit.
The three-day joint meeting provided another opportunity to strengthen the ties of Saline, Mich.-based Evangelical Homes of Michigan to UCC churches and leadership by sharing its accomplishments and building relationships.
Rabidoux provided opening comments during a fellowship dinner on the first evening. Evangelical Homes of Michigan also conducted the business portion of its meeting in front of conference delegates, she says.
“It was a wonderful celebration and a moving experience to have our combined meeting,” Rabidoux says.
Michael Readinger, CHHSM vice president, agrees.
“Evangelical Homes of Michigan’s visionary approach to combining the annual meeting of their membership with the Michigan Conference membership is a living testament to what could become the model for incorporating the health and human service ministries into the world of the wider church,” says Readinger.
Evangelical Homes of Michigan is a nonprofit that provides health care, senior housing and community services to older adults and their extended families, including respite services for caregivers, plus hospice and memory care.
It already has a strong covenant with the United Church of Christ and the denomination’s Michigan Conference.
“The CHHSM tagline, ‘Advancing the Healing and Service Ministry of Jesus Christ,’ and the United Church of Christ tagline, ‘That they may all be one,’ bring the whole church full circle and exemplify a new way for our shared ministries of faith and service to overlap and sustain each other,” Readinger says.
Throughout the year, an ambassador from a UCC congregation meets monthly with a representative from Evangelical Homes of Michigan to discuss church needs. A representative from the organization also speaks to UCC congregations about its work and covenant.
“We and the churches work together to connect health care services and minister to the wider church in our area,” Rabidoux says. “We do all kinds of health and wellness work.”
This work in 2013 included providing more than 800 influenza vaccines in its partnered churches with the help of church ambassadors, bringing the total number of vaccinations to more than 5,000 over the past six years, she said. The vaccines are free to those who do not have Medicare Part B.
In fiscal year 2010, Evangelical Homes of Michigan provided services to more than 2,000 individuals and their families at campuses in southeast Michigan, including Ann Arbor and Detroit. That year the organization, founded in 1879, also provided more than $2.3 million in unreimbursed care to residents.
The joint annual meeting provided the perfect platform to share and celebrate this work, Rabidoux says.
“I think the biggest takeaway is to continue to strengthen our relationship with the churches and conference as a whole,” Rabidoux says. “Also, to celebrate that Evangelical Homes of Michigan is an extension of the church and to make sure congregations and churches know we are an extension of UCC.”