November Newsletter | Positioning Deaconess to Realize Our Vision

Deaconess Community,

Last week during the Annual Joint Meeting of the Deaconess Foundation and Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being Boards I had the honor of sharing, virtually, with many of our neighbors, community partners, and fellow advocates our approach to realizing a just future for kids in our lifetime – or even better by 2039. Today, I am equally as honored to share that framework with you.

My purpose is rooted in John 6:39 and Isaiah 58: to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work; to repair breaches of injustice and to inspire excellence, fierceness and hope. This purpose reflects the same spiritual and moral imperative that guides Deaconess: to combat structural racism and to mobilize people, policy, and power for the health and wellbeing of endangered children in the context of their families, neighborhoods, and systems that influence their ability to self-determine their bright and blessed futures. My leadership and what anchors our future is found in our values: justice, hope, service, identity and faithfulness. It is also the foundation for our approach to position Deaconess to address current and future challenges life may bring.

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the world and will have reverberating effects that will impact us all for decades at spiritual, economic, political, and environmental levels. It is for this reason that the bringing together of community health and public health practice with community organizing, anchor and responsive investments and the faith community is essential and necessary to shift from a crisis orientation to a proactive futurist orientation that will accelerate the realizing of the just society we aspire to build together.

The image to the right, adapted from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ Supporting Movements Framework, represents our approach to moving our mission forward as an institutional anchor advocate, investor, broker/translator/facilitator, healer, connector, and learner.

  • As institutional anchor advocate with 130 years in mission and counting – aligning with the visionary leadership of Rev. Starsky Wilson, we will continue to transform from a grantmaking foundation that advocates to an institutional advocate that makes grants. And we will continue to provide expertise support beyond grants that holds accountability for ourselves, our partners in philanthropy and systems and elevate community voice, vision and power.
  • As investor, we are committed to stewardship over the corpus and partnership with other investors who share our values and our vision to attract new investment dollars for the purpose of sustaining the work generationally. Being an investor also means investing in growing and supporting a community leadership pipeline that retains the talent and expertise of young leaders in community with our elders to sustain the change we seek.
  • As broker/translator/facilitator we will dismantle white supremacy culture to allow for the inclusive beloved community that God intends found in deep relationship, community rootedness, and connectedness in something bigger than ourselves – abiding love. From transactional to relational, valuing lived experience and expertise co-equal with degrees and title: both sides of the fence must come to a shared table if we’re ever going to overcome this chronic stagnation we’ve called progress in this part of the Midwest.
  • As healer we will hold space for traditional partners like healthcare providers and faith communities inclusive of the United Church of Christ and Black church traditions like my own – the Church of God in Christ—to infuse joy, Spirit, and healing arts into this work. We will welcome culturally congruent partners like community health workers and others who center healing to address the level of grief and loss our community is reeling from now and for a generation to come.
  • As connector we – especially through the community asset of the Deaconess Center – will host and convene with the intent to foster and build trusting relationships that cross traditional barriers by sector, generations, intersectional identities, geographic footprint, and spiritual practices. All for the purpose of the improved health of the community and its people.
  • As learner together with you we will root new understanding and awakenings in taking action. Learning from our successes and making it right from our inevitable failed tries. There’s a lot I’ve learned. And there’s quite a bit that hasn’t been revealed to me yet. Thank you in advance for sharpening me. Evaluating impact together with other partners to know if life has gotten better or worse as perceived and lived by our young people through the lens of racial equity will remain our commitment.
We have work to do, critical work. But first, I leave you with two asks and my personal commitments:

My asks of you: (1) Give us the grace to do what my mentor Sr. Mary Antona Ebo and Rev. Richard Ellerbrake captured for me when he said, “in all, be open to the Spirit and go do as the Spirit leads.” (2) Every one of us is called to be a healer, policy influencer, and history maker. Your leadership no matter who you are or where you sit in the circle of life is vital in this moment. All that you’ve been through and the strength found in you has been preserved for this moment to help finish the work that has remained unfinished on our watch. The ask: don’t live life as a question mark. Live life as an exclamation point: be the healer, policy influencer and history maker you are called to be.

My commitments to you: (1) We will seek the wisdom of the community, but we will not exploit it. (2) Deaconess will work in partnership and in covenant relationship where the will of the Spirit and the will of the people meet. (3) I will listen with new ears and an open heart. No voice is too small and no vision is too audacious to influence our work.

Now, let’s get to work and do what must be done.

In service to the mission,

Bethany Johnson-Javois
President & CEO
Deaconess Foundation

To read the rest of our November eNewsletter, click here.