Rector's Blog: CARE Team Love
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Rachel Blinka helped me get vaccinated. She didn’t know that was what she was going to do when she set up that Zoom call with me. We were just going to talk about her decision to become a member of Church of the Redeemer and talk a little about her upcoming wedding. But it turned out Rachel couldn’t resist helping me get vaccinated. See, Rachel works for Hamilton County Public Health. She’s a communicable disease specialist and works for their COVID-19 task force. She was doing outbreak management, but by the time we met she had shifted to working on facilitating vaccination sites. Rachel is passionate about helping this country get through this pandemic as soon as possible. She’s passionate about educating people, and she’s even more passionate about getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible in order for us to achieve herd immunity and get our lives back to something resembling normal. Rachel helps save lives. Rachel helps make lives better, healthier, more at peace.
Based on the requirements of my work as a parish priest, I was eligible for the vaccine, but I did not know that. Even if I had known it, I cannot say for sure that I’d have known where to go or what to do in order to get it. Rachel took a break from talking about her upcoming nuptials to check in on me, and then to help me get vaccinated. Then she said, “I’d love to help the church in any way I can.”
Rachel is on the CARE Team now – our COVID-19 advisory group. She joins a stellar team, most of whom you already know, but talking about them is one of my favorite things.
Like Nancy Powell, a longtime member and a spiritual leader at Church of the Redeemer, Nancy is the retired Chief Nursing Officer of Tri Health and was also COO of Hospice of Cincinnati. In our meetings, Nancy always reminds us of the soul of our congregation and how our decisions are meant to nurture and care for that soul. Nancy says the things that ground us. She knows our hearts and bodies are connected.
Laurie McKernan is Director of the Division of Field Studies and Engineering at the CDC, and she oversees teams that respond to COVID-19 outbreaks across the country. Her expertise is in occupational safety and health, and she speaks with clarity, intention, principle, and years of experience. She fundamentally understands how we set standards of safety that are actually effective. She saves lives. Her family has been at Church of the Redeemer for over 20 years, and this past December her daughter was the one who came up with our Drive-In Church Christmas Eve service that created the most memorable Christmas worship experience of my lifetime.
Jennifer Kasten’s first Sunday at Church of the Redeemer, she showed up with her kids and almost nobody was there. She said, “Where is everyone?” And someone told her, “They’re at Ault Park for the annual picnic.” So, she threw her kids back in the car and drove to the park to worship with her new church, having never met any of us. Now she is deeply involved and invested in the liturgical life of our congregation. She also happens to have an advanced degree in epidemiology with focused work on mathematic modeling of infectious disease. She has quite literally studied and prepared for a time like this for much of her adult life. She’s energized by analyzing data and finds great joy in translating that data into sacramental, spiritual, and theological terms in order to better care for this congregation.
Jeff Brokamp is the Church’s Junior Warden. He is recently retired from his role as principal at Walnut Hills High School, and he brings his expansive understanding of how to manage a large community and navigate bureaucracy to our team. Jeff is all practicality and brass tacks. He pushes us to make our thinking plain and clear. He never settles for abstract ideals. Everything has to make sense for the average churchgoer, or it doesn’t get past Jeff.
All these folks are wrangled with such care and intention by the inimitable Becca Morehous – our Health & Wellness Minister. If I start writing about her, I might not stop. To be led by Becca is to be cared for, to be listened to, to be understood, to be held accountable, to be challenged, to be nurtured – Becca is a practitioner of incarnational theology, reminding all who work with her that the Body of Christ lives and moves and has its being in our daily lives. Nothing is secular when working with Becca. Everything is holy.
I have to tell you; I love my job. I love my job because I spend so much of my time getting to know people who care deeply about this world. And I love my job because those people I meet are drawn into the Church of the Redeemer and help make it a clearer picture of God’s Kingdom come, God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. People become a part of this community, and oftentimes immediately they ask questions like, “How can I help?” and “Where can I make a difference?” And I love my job because when they ask those questions, we almost always have real and practical ways to help them help this world.
I love my job because I work at Church of the Redeemer, and y’all are just really serious about Church making a difference – a difference in your life, a difference in each other’s lives, and a difference in our community. When a need is perceived, ministries are born, they thrive, they are supported, and they are appreciated. New ministries at Church of the Redeemer embody the truth of our community’s care for one another. At the same time, they expand our understanding of our work in this world. They transform our understanding of church.
The CARE Team is a great example of this. As a ministry that emerged from our parishioner’s desire to make a difference in the midst of this pandemic, and as one that draws on the expertise of the amazing people in our church, the CARE Team embodies the essence of how we live into being Church. And as a ministry that calls for the expertise of nurses, physicians, and public health experts it transforms our understanding of what being Church even means for us.
CARE stands for COVID Advisory Response Experts, and a little over a year ago, who knew we’d ever need such a thing? Who knew that the resident epidemiologists, nurses, public health experts, and school officials would be brought together and would use their unique and developed talents to care for their church and further the work of the Gospel? I love Church of the Redeemer not just because people like this are part of our congregation, but because we are a culture that is geared toward empowering them and learning from them when it’s their turn to lead. How great is that?
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