Congregation Connection

In late March, 104 participants and presenters representing 42 organizations, gathered at Camp Allen for the Episcopal Health Foundation’s sixth annual In Common event series. For the first time since February 2020, congregations from across the Episcopal Diocese of Texas joined EHF as we continue to highlight ways congregations can partner to build stronger relationships in their community, develop leadership, and learn new skills to improve their outreach ministries.

The theme for In Common 2022 was Better Together: Understanding the Intersection of Race and Health in Your Community. The event offered two keynote speakers, opportunities for networking, and workshops on building healthy community, faithful citizenship, and racial justice. We were fortunate to have speakers from the Gulf Coast Leadership Council, the Health and Justice Advocacy Network (HJAN), One Human Race, University of Houston School of Social Work, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, and EHF.

In Common 2022: Better Together launched on Friday night with a keynote address by Bishop Kathryn “Kai” Ryan. She spoke about the role of congregations in community advocacy. The message shared stories of parishioners and congregational leaders reaching out to hear the needs of communities and partnering alongside other organizations to address common needs. Following the keynote address, attendees participated in a social hour honoring the Health and Justice Advocacy Network (HJAN), a collective of Episcopal congregations interested in building skills to identify pertinent issues concerning health, sharing information, and taking the lead on moving forward with advocacy.

The Saturday event kicked off with a keynote address by Professor Aabha Brown from the University of Houston School of Social Work. Her message focused on understanding the intersection of race and health and what is required to build healthy communities for all. The interactive keynote explored ideas about the social factors contributing to disparities in health outcomes.

The keynote address was followed by three tracks of workshops:

Healthy Communities for All:
The workshop track included two workshops entitled “Transforming Communities through the Social Determinants of Health” led by Professor Aabha Brown of the University of Houston and “Understanding Your Community: The Importance of Knowing Who’s in Your Neighborhood and Disaggregating Data” led by EHF’s Robiel Abraha.

The first workshop continued the conversation from the Saturday morning keynote on the basics of understanding social determinants of health. Participants discussed how community and individual health are impacted by the social determinants of health and the opportunities congregations have to impact their communities. The second workshop introduced the concept of using data to drive community engagement and gave a brief overview of the PolicyMap tool, which provides valuable data and insights at the neighborhood level.

Understanding the Systems of Racial Injustice with One Human Race

The workshop track offered an abbreviated workshop of One Human Race, a ministry of the Myra McDaniel Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians in Austin, which was led by Scott Madison and Suzanne Stege.

The workshop used clips from the documentary Race: The Power of an Illusion to examine explicit and implicit bias and consider the events and attitudes from the documentary in light of past and current health outcomes for African-Americans. Participants walked away with a better understanding of the concept of race and that as humans we have more in common than that which divides us.

Creating Healthy Communities through Faithful Citizenship

The workshop track included two workshops – “Lessons Learned in the Fight for Medicaid Expansion” led by EHF’s Willie Bennett and various members of the Health and Justice Advocacy Network (HJAN) and “Get Out the Vote: Faith-filled voting” led by Jog Higgs of the Gulf Coast Leadership Council.

Participants in this track explored the importance of Medicaid expansion for Texas and demonstrated the impact people of faith made through HJAN during the most recent state legislative session. The session also looked forward to pending legislation in the US Congress and detailed ways others can get involved and make an impact through advocacy. The second workshop focused on faithful voting and civic participation as an important aspect of spiritual life. Attendees learned how to educate themselves and others about the current elections and how to encourage voting in the community in a non-partisan way.



For those who were unable to attend, we have compiled a list of In Common resources which you can now access via the Google Drive: In Common 2022: Better Together | Attendee Resources.