Jim Harrington, a civil rights lawyer for more than 40 years and member of St. James’, created Proyecto Santiago out of a call to serve and a desire to help those whose rights have been infringed upon. The mission of the ministry is to provide Christian-based outreach and organizing to the Spanish-speaking congregation and community members. That includes providing information on how to address community problems and how to navigate political and government systems.
As a missional community, Proyecto Santiago works to cultivate a church “outside the building,” taking the Gospel and relationship out into the community, and creating a united community focused on common service and issues of social justice.
Earlier this year, with EHF’s help, Proyecto Santiago hosted a community meeting and other ongoing information sessions on civic engagement to build knowledge about immigrant rights and responsibilities.
The Episcopal Diocese of Texas recently featured a story about how the Hispanic community in Austin has been empowered by civic engagement efforts and the continued assistance to ensure individuals and families know their rights. Residents now have access to necessary legal services, and documentation in case of immigration enforcement and/or deportation.
Read more: Bishop Andy Doyle condemns Texas Senate Bill 4 as “anti-immigrant” and contrary to the moral imperative that we love our neighbor
In early June, Proyecto Santiago collaborated with EHF to offer the first Mental Health First Aid workshop in Spanish for congregations in the Diocese. About 20 people, including members of the congregation, community residents and various service organizations attended. Each person was certified to identify symptoms of a mental health crisis and direct those in need to resources and services.
Proyecto Santiago provides an example of how congregations can step outside their walls, listen to their neighbors, and work alongside them to address the needs in their community. Together they can create a healthier community.
Other congregations advancing civic engagement and community organizing:
San Pedro/St. Peter’s, Pasadena has engaged its community in many ways with the help of The Metropolitan Organization (TMO). Using community organizing tools from TMO, congregation and community members have held listening sessions, forums, and 1-on-1 conversations to better understand the needs of their community and affect change. Both San Pedro and San Pablo/St. Paul’s, Houston worked closely with Mi Familia Vota to educate the community on voter rights and responsibilities and to increase voter participation.
If your congregation is interested in community organizing or would like to find other ways to engage your community, please contact us.
Proyecto Santiago provides free legal services to immigrants.