In this Congregation Spotlight, The Rev. Trawin Malone shares the journey of Christ Church into the Cedar Park/Leander area to discover the intersection of unmet needs and their own unique calling as a congregation. Along the way, they are meeting people, convening leaders, and asking questions with hopes to address together the challenges of improving mental health in their community. They are the first to tell you that they don’t have all the answers, but they are discovering their unique role as a neighbor along the border of Travis and Williamson counties.
By The Rev. Dr. Trawin Malone
Christ Episcopal Church, Cedar Park
Almost five years ago, several members of Christ Episcopal Church came together to form the Mission in Action/Outreach Ministry. When we first began meeting, we brainstormed and collected our thoughts around the basic needs of people in our community. The areas of food scarcity, adequate and affordable housing, clothing, health, transportation, and employment were the first things we considered. We researched resources within our community to see if there were places where people could go for those needs to be met.
We found that there were a number of places in our area where people could go for food, either on a regular basis or an emergency basis. We found that there were multiple sites to get clothing. There is a site at a local church in the area that hosts Life Bridge Corps that helps people train for and find jobs. We met with leaders of agencies that serve people in poverty to determine what services were available to them and to identify gaps where needs were not being met. We discovered that there were agencies that helped people with rent and utilities, as well as Samaritan Health Ministries that provide health services for people who are uninsured or underinsured.
The issue was not a lack of ways for us to serve and partner in our community. The question for us was “Who are our neighbors and how can we partner to be in relationship?”
Focus on Mental Health
As we continued to meet with various agencies and organizations, one issue was sited again and again: they all said that there was a lack of easily accessible and affordable mental health services. We have now partnered with three agencies who are providing the basic mental health needs for people to support them as they serve our neighbors in need.
In 2017 after our initial discoveries, we began discussing our findings with folks from EHF, and enlisted their help to guide us in exploring this question of “Who is our neighbor and how can we partner and be in relationship?” After a series of exploratory discussions, community engagement workshops and other guidance from EHF, we have begun to put together a working group that we believe contains the right partners to work toward finding a way forward in addressing this problem.
In May, we felt that we had progressed to the point where we were ready to have conversations with agencies who provide mental health services and who are impacted by clients with mental health needs. We hoped to determine if there are adequate services at this time, and if not, identify where the gaps in services exist.
We discovered at our first convening that many of our agencies had not previously met one another. We are continuing to hold monthly conversations with the original agencies and organizations, while expanding the group to include others. Our partners currently include the Travis County Community Center, Leander ISD, The Samaritan Health Ministry, Hill Country Community Ministries, Child and Family Services for Austin Travis County Integral Care, Williamson County Wellness Alliance, and Bluebonnet Trails Community Services (Williamson County’s mental health provider).
Our hope is that with continued dialogue and the collective wisdom of the group, a united way forward will emerge. Together we will take action toward implementing a vision for a healthier community as we start about the Kingdom of God.
The Christ Church team continues to refine their work and hone their community engagement skills as part of an Austin Cohort of congregations discerning community ministry. This peer learning cohort is in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and Episcopal Health Foundation. We will revisit their story in the months to come as they continue to have conversations with partners and neighbors.
To hear more from the Rev. Malone about the unique way Christ Church is making community connections in Cedar Park, you can click here to see his short talk at EHF’s booth at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention.
If your church is interested in learning more about EHF’s Community Engagement training or would like to learn about additional congregational work with mental health, contact the Congregational Engagement team at [email protected].