Relationships Matter

Congregations have been through a lot since the beginning of the pandemic. Since January, EHF has reached out to leaders across the Episcopal Diocese of Texas to listen to their stories and learn about their hopes for moving forward in their community.

Between January and June 2021, EHF’s Congregational Engagement team conducted in-depth interviews with congregations from across the diocese. These congregational check-ins were intended to find out what congregations are doing and how EHF can be helpful to their work.

Many churches said that while now is an exciting time as we begin to come back together to worship and interact, it’s also stressful as we navigate national challenges and losses from this past year. The Reverend Dave Sugeno of Trinity Episcopal Church in Marble Falls brought up the idea of the “4 R’s: reemerge, reconnect, reassess, and re-engage.” This idea is central to much of what other congregations expressed. Many felt that they were at a unique point where rebuilding ministries, relationships, and identities was crucial.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new technologies which have been impactful to churches’ work. When speaking about their mental health ministry. “The issues we had identified: accessibility and affordability all went away as everyone we are working with has access to smartphones and they are signing up for all services online,” said Deacon Jan Halstead of Christ Church, Cedar Park. New technologies allowed more people to engage with church work. Rector Bertie Peterson from Grace, Georgetown told us that “live stream is here to stay.”

Leaders we spoke with had engaged with EHF through our four focus areas: poverty, mental health, racial justice, and community organizing. Those who had worked with EHF before COVID-19 said that their interactions helped them better work within communities and engage their neighbors.

This past year and a half has been challenging. Many congregations were forced to pause previous outreach ministries, end mission work, and move to online platforms. There’s a real need to grieve all that has been lost.

However, through these interviews, congregational leaders expressed a sense of pride in what their churches have accomplished despite these hardships. Pastor Jason Ingalls of Holy Spirit, Waco proudly stated “I am proud of the community’s response.”  This sentiment was felt by many across the diocese and continues to be a driving force in the efforts congregations have made to come back together after a difficult time.