Why We Gather

Excerpts from President and CEO Mary Kemper’s remarks on April 17that the UMA Annual Meeting

We come together for a second day as a UMA community. Recently, the UMA leadership has spent considerable time reflecting on this community. What is UMA? Why do we gather?

Well, if you go to our new website, you will see under bright orange letters the shared vision that inspires and unites our UMA community:
UMA Members are thriving, spirit-centered ministries passionately committed to excellence.

That is the UMA vision. That is why we gather.

As I’ve had a chance to talk and visit with many of you over the past 18 months, I see clearly that that is what drives your diverse ministries – that spirit-centered, commitment to excellence. Whether your organization is seeking to enhance the lives of older persons, heal a child, or help a family, you are passionately committed to delivering services that lift up individual lives while seeking to make the world a better place for us all.

With EAGLE, we are fortunate to have a framework for achieving and maintaining these services at their highest possible level of quality. All of you in this room, as UMA members, have made a commitment to strive towards the EAGLE standards. Thirty of you have voluntarily and successfully met those high standards.

That is why we gather.

The UMA mission – reaffirmed by the board this week is:  to promote, inspire, recognize and empower excellence in human service ministries. To achieve our mission, UMA fosters quality by providing a platform where members gain information and inspiration from experts and each other. Last night, we celebrated and recognized some of those members’ best practices and innovations as well as honored those organizations who became EAGLE-accredited.

Over the past year, UMA has offered education and resources on fundraising, governance, spiritual wellness, and leadership and workforce engagement. Our education program this week includes more than 20 peer and industry leaders from around the country sharing expertise and offering “pathways to excellence.”

UMA members are not just meeting basic standards – You are – as our mission states – truly empowering excellence. You are innovating. You are going above and beyond to help each other in times of need. You are creating programs and developing strategies to meet the complex needs of your clients and communities.

And, as you have innovated, so has the UMA, through new education approaches. We experimented with our first virtual education event this January, giving some of you the chance to engage your board and leadership teams differently.

UMA members are also sharing with one another. Several of your organizations have opened your doors to each other to offer your expertise. You reach out to one another for guidance with governance, development, branding, technology and workforce issues.

That is why we gather.

And, as your organizations are changing from the widows’ homes and orphanages of the past to comprehensive human service ministries for the future, UMA is also changing.

This January, we launched a fresh brand look for both UMA and EAGLE. The new UMA logo design honors our connection to our United Methodist heritage with a respectful nod to the cross and flame. It also serves as an inspiring light of hope with its warm, vibrant colors.

The leadership guru Simon Sinek says that orange is the color of optimism. I can see it. I believe him. And we need that, don’t we?

As our world seems increasingly divided politically and economically, we need to continue to believe that as organizations and communities, we will work through our problems. We need to have faith that if we work together, we can find solutions to even our most daunting challenges. In the UMA flame, I see that faith, hope and light. And in the people gathered before me, I see that resolve.

Faith is certainly at the heart of our work. Many of you have shared with me that you have been called to this work. That is part of the UMA spirit. In fact, forty years ago, the UMA leadership developed the EAGLE standards to help ensure that the missions of our faith-based organizations remain grounded in faith and Christian values.

God, and our faith in Him, must remain a constant in our ever-changing human service landscape.

That is why we gather.

But it is not easy. Tax Reform, managed care, the Family First Prevention Act and workforce shortages are just a few issues which are significantly impacting your organizations and testing your endurance and determination.

We cannot rest until our parents and grandparents are free to choose abundant life.

We cannot rest until every child thrives and every family flourishes.

We cannot rest until every at-risk youth has the support they need to build a positive future.

These are some of your mission statements. UMA members need the support of one another to achieve these ambitious goals.

That is why we gather.

And so, in answer to the question, “What is UMA?” and why do we connect as leaders and as an organization, I hope you have heard my answers. We gather to promote, inspire, recognize and empower excellence. These are not my words, but yours.

I believe we have found our voice. We are the UMA family.

That is why we gather.