I think of the social pressures on an immigrant denomination of German lineage during a time of international turmoil and war with Germany in Europe. I think of the rapid industrialization of American towns and cities as mills and factories followed technological innovations in transportation, steel, and other manufacturing.
I think of the disruption that impacted families drawing young people to cities from farms and small towns in search of new jobs. Then I think of how parents and grandparents may have been isolated, removed from family supports in a time when few social support services were available.
Our records tell the story of a church whose German heritage also included a rich tradition of founding diaconal service institutions to help orphans, hospitals, social ministries, and colleges. We have direct descendants of each right here in Ohio, founded by our predecessor congregations in today’s United Church of Christ.
So it began as a mission to serve people in need. This, of course, is noble and tied to a deeply held conviction about the gospel teaching and the example of Jesus Christ. But is there more to learn about this history than a mission come to life?
I have come to understand that beyond the mission, this work of the church also was part of a movement. Providing care and support to the vulnerable has also been a proclamation against the prejudices and injustices of a society tilted toward the powerful and rich. Diaconal ministries were also the leading edge of what we would today call advocacy for transforming society. Ageism and its manifestations of discrimination and prejudice are deeply rooted in our culture and reinforced by social policy and practice. We believe we need to be an advocate for elder justice because we honor those we serve.
So the mission continues for the family of communities of United Church Homes. From Fairhaven in Upper Sandusky to our newest members, Glenwood Community and Harmar Place in Marietta, Ohio, we proclaim what our forebears and we believe. We provide living environments for quality of life and care. Moreover, our ministry is a witness to a society that continues to discriminate against the sick, the disabled, the aged, and the disadvantaged.
Our centennial celebrates not only the rich mission of service, it also marks the continuing witness of the church to transform aging. United Church Homes is proud of this heritage of service and witness. For one hundred years, we have worked at transforming the experience of aging by building a culture of community, wholeness, and peace. May God continue to inspire, guide, and bless us into the next century of our sacred mission and this powerful justice movement.