In our first year launching EHF’s congregational engagement work, we’re reaching out across the Episcopal Diocese of Texas to share our vision for an engaged Diocese that can play an important role in helping to transform community health. We’re also listening to congregations and learning about programs in progress, what they see as needs in their communities and how EHF might help.
On October 1, EHF met with more than 50 clergy and lay leaders from 18 congregations across Central Texas including Austin, Bastrop, Cedar Park, LaGrange, Lampasas, Manor, Marble Falls, Pflugerville, and Rockdale. We came together at The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin. EHF staff shared the foundation’s vision, progress to date, and future plans and opportunities for congregations to partner with us.
We also created time for congregations to share their ideas of a healthy community, barriers to achieving that ideal community, and the current work their congregations are doing to create such a community.
What does a healthy community look like?
Many of the responses were centered on access to care, inclusive community conversations, connectedness, food access, and physical activity.
What are the barriers to a healthy community?
Though there are many, attendees identified some of the major barriers to be: lack of resources and funds, lack of education, fear and shame, lack of access to services, and unreliable transportation.
What have churches done or are currently doing to achieve a healthy community?
We heard about the community gardens, fitness classes, mental health counseling, school mentorships, human service coordination, and many other ways Episcopal churches are engaging their communities.
The opportunity to connect and learn from one another may have been the most valuable part of the meeting. As one participant said, “One of the best parts about today was interacting with various congregations – we don’t have that opportunity very often.” Most participants said they were leaving with at least one new idea they would like to take back to their congregation. They also said they’d be interested in coming together in the future to learn about skill-based training opportunities.
Moving forward, EHF is excited about the enthusiastic response from congregations and how we can work together in our communities in new and innovative ways to improve community health. We will continue to develop additional opportunities for supporting and connecting congregations to help build healthier communities.
If you are interested in a topic-specific meeting to build skills or awareness of particular community concern, please email us at [email protected].