General Convention: Partnering for Wellness

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The Episcopal Diocese of Texas provided hospitality for 10,000 Episcopalians in Austin for the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. For two weeks in July, all elements of Episcopal life were discussed, amended, voted on and celebrated during the business meeting that takes place every three years. For many of the 1,000 volunteers from the Diocese of Texas, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see and participate in how their church works.

Every hall at the Austin Convention Center was used for business, worship and legislation during the convention. The main exhibit hall served as an “Episcopal Mall” and a gathering place.

That's where EHF joined The Episcopal Diocese of Texas Wellness Ministry, Seminary of the Southwest and Living Compass to provide a place of respite and wellness.

“The idea for a wellness collaboration popped up during a conversation in 2016 with Living Compass friends.  It seemed an obvious choice for EDOT and Living Compass to work together to highlight wellness at General Convention.  Two other EDOT entities -- EHF and Seminary of the Southwest -- are also dedicated to wellness. So, we determined to bring all four groups to the conversation to figure out what this might look like."

The Rev. Canon Carol Petty

Rev. Petty's vision was tranformed into a booth hosted by EHF that offered a series of shared Wellness Talks from multiple partners of the four organizations. Because General Convention has multiple events happening at the same time,  the talks were recorded and the videos were shared over social media, allowing the content to have a life beyond General Convention.

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Click above to view any of the Wellness Talks from General Convention

“EHF brought quality to the exhibit hall floor that engaged people," said Thomas Ortiz, EHF board member and one of the lead volunteer coordinators of General Convention. "It allowed our amazing colleagues to communicate our message.”

The Rev. Scott Stoner of Living Compass gave multiple talks over the nine days in the Exhibit Hall.

Scott says the power of partnering is essential because "it models the principle that wellness is grounded in community. A hallmark of 'unwellness' is being isolated and disconnected, and so by partnering together we are modeling that when I is replaced with we, then illness becomes wellness."

All of the Wellness Talks presented can be viewed here. They tell the story behind many different initiatives happening across the diocese. Topics include community organizing, racial reconciliation, how to have an active faith that engages friends on the trail, and a wonderful series of talks on “Practices For Living Well."

Part of the "Practices for Living Well" series focused on the success of small experiments and was presented by the Rev. Jane Patterson and Steven Tomlinson.

“That talk really resonated with me, because big changes are fairly daunting, however, small experiments toward change seem quite doable," said Rev. Perry. "The speakers pointed out that the small experiments don’t really change our circumstances, but rather change us as we begin to do things even a little bit differently. I find myself frequently wondering what small experiment I might make to move toward greater wellness and then I give it a try.”

Rev. Trawin Malone presented another talk about how parishioners at Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Park have been using the wellness model of partnering in the community with larger experiments, including partnering with a high school and the sheriff's department.

"We are open to listening to stories about the community to hear what the needs are," Rev. Malone said.  "When we hear needs, there is energy to partner with folks who are already doing good work. Then, in conversation with our partners, we are excited about exploring new ways to have relationships with our neighbors. The challenge does not seem overwhelming.”

The Well Talks booth collaboration for General Convention has strengthened the relationships of all involved and celebrated the unique investment each brings to many EDOT congregations to deepen their community wellness work. Rev. Malone says that partnering both inside the church and out in the community improves health for all. 

“I was reminded of the trust that is necessary to do the work and ministry of Jesus Christ," Rev. Malone said.  "It is never going to be perfect; and it is never 'ours'.  We are all on this journey together.”

July/August 2018

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