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Michael Gallagher, OSB

COHI Board Member and Benedictine Monk

By Laura Masterson

On introducing our wonderful friend and mentor, Br. Michael Gallagher, to the Community of Hope retreatants and then to the parish on Sunday morning, he advised us that he hears that sort of introduction quite frequently- “Oh, brother…” We all laughed.

Br. Michael visited our Community of Hope center on September 23-25 in Gainesville, GA for a time of refocusing ourselves as made in the image of God and being recipients of beauty and grace. Revisiting the importance and use of a Rule of Life, touching on life in community, and the power of the Circle of Care were just a few of the points he touched on so gently yet with articulation and charge.

In particular, Br. Michael’s “homegrown” take on what it means to be holy captured all of us in a new and enlivening way. He says being holy means having an unswerving dedication to the truth. Jesus, on the cross, held that kind of truth. A no-flinching conviction that we serve a God who resurrects and calls life out of exile and endings.

He urged us to take seriously generating a Rule of Life and and searching for God in and through community. The Rule of Life assists in becoming mindful of the divine in our fractured and much too busy lives. Reflecting on God’s most beloved societies in the poor, the handicapped, and the lonely, we were reminded to focus on a way of BEING instead of a way of DOING. Community worship, study, and work become a collective prayer calling us back to our relationship with God. We, as a group, had wide, listening ears for Br. Michael that weekend. It astounds me over and over again the beautiful gifts of people whom God puts before us to challenge us and to love us. We are grateful- to Br. Michael and to our Lord.

Br. Michael first met COHI founder Helen Appelberg at a clergy conference at Camp Allen.  Br. Michael and Fr. Peter Funk were serving as chaplains for the weekend and Helen discovered they were Benedictine monks.  It didn't take long for Helen to convince Br. Michael that COHI needed his wisdom and vision.  20+ years later Br. Michael continues to play an integral part in growing COHI's ministry worldwide.

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Harmony Kiser

COHI Regional Representative for the Southwest Region

By Pam Heidt

In 2010, Harmony was the vestry member in charge of pastoral care at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.  She was in charge of a group of 35 people who were all involved with pastoral care but none had been formally trained.  Many of this group wanted training and so Harmony looked into various programs.  One of her friends had been Community of Hope trained in Houston and told Harmony about the program.  After looking at the COHI website, Harmony contacted Community of Hope and began training a class in May of that year.  This new class became the first COH Center in Georgia.

Harmony has boundless energy and when she discovered that Community of Hope has an annual Conference she got in her car (in June 2010 when her first class was just beginning) and drove by herself to Camp Allen (north of Houston) to attend the annual conference.  She says it was truly a meaningful spiritual experience and has not missed an annual COHI conference since.

As soon as Harmony came back to Georgia she set about letting the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta know about Community of Hope.  Her work with the diocese set things in motion and Assistant Bishop Keith Whitmore recommended that the Institute for Ministry and Theological Education in that diocese sponsor a diocesan-wide COHI training.  Out of this training grew one of Georgia’s most dedicated Centers (Grace Episcopal Church in Gainesville, Georgia) led by Laura Masterson.

Harmony’s love and enthusiasm for Community of Hope abounds.  She is a delight to all who know her and a tireless worker.  She has facilitated many classes and made many friends through her Community of Hope work.  Every day Harmony is a model to others who are searching for ways to do effective pastoral care and every week she spends a minimum of ten hours on her COHI volunteer work.

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Jenny Smith

Co-Regional Representative for the South Region and Training Facilitator Extraordinaire!

By Jennifer Sassin

“God’s hand is in all of this." Jenny began her journey with the Community of Hope International (COHI) in 2003 when she took the first COHI training class offered at her church, St. James United Methodist in Little Rock, Arkansas. Ann Baskett was the facilitator. Jenny’s husband died in 2001 and in 2002 two of her close friends were diagnosed with cancer. In wanting to better respond to them and move forward following the death of her husband, Jenny was drawn to the COHI training and became so inspired she decided to take three years of CPE training through the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences. This led to being offered the position of Director of Congregational Care and Senior Ministry at her church. Jenny says, “God’s hand was in all of this. After having lost my husband and lots of soul searching, COHI made me realize I have a gift for listening and compassion. God was preparing me for my work as Director of Congregational Care and Senior Ministry at St. James.”

Facilitating COHI classes since 2005 at St. James along with Susan Hiller, Jenny is beginning her 11th year in this role. She is very passionate about COHI and trains people who come from many denominations. Jenny says, “COHI training is a great way to blend with other denominations and work toward a common goal.” In addition to training many lay people, she has trained six individuals who have gone on to seminary as well as ordained ministers who want a better understanding of pastoral care. She points out that it is very gratifying to see people grow in their ministry.

In her years of facilitating, Jenny has found that not many people are familiar with The Rule of Benedict. She finds it really amazing to see how people are bringing Benedictine practices to life. Her COHI groups serve hospitals, the home-bound, nursing homes, “Under the Bridge” (a ministry which takes food to the homeless), prison ministry, and pet therapy in nursing homes. Jenny says, “We don’t stop at anything!”

According to Jenny, “COHI is the best kept secret alive,” and is very excited to have the opportunity along with Susan Hiller in July 2017 to speak about self-care and congregational care to the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship. Jenny’s focus will be on COHI as she shares our “secret” with over 500 pastors and music directors from around the country. Jenny says, “COHI has been life-saving for me. God has prepared me all these years without my knowing it. Put your trust in God; the doors will open to unbelievable opportunities.”