Today’s CliffNotes is a guest post by Wes Crawford, our Worship Pastor and the staff point of contact for three missional initiatives of Christ Church: the Mission Team, Neighborhood Engagement Team (NET), and Church Under the Bridge (CUB).
Dear Christ Church,
As part of our efforts to Love Where We Live, last year we formed a small team to spearhead initiatives to engage our neighborhood with the love of Christ. I wanted to give you a quick update on the Neighborhood Engagement Team, so that you can be aware of that team’s efforts. Three categories define this team’s work: Reservoirs, Relationships, and Runways.
Reservoirs are specific areas of focus to which we want to stayed tuned, such as racial justice, community development, ministry to the homeless, or gentrification with justice. Conversations about these topics are happening all over town, often with events and speakers brought in by the city or by local non-profits, and we try to keep our ear to the ground to be part of these events and conversations as much as we can.
We also work on intentionally building and cultivating relationships with community stakeholders, such as long-term residents, business owners, local politicians, and law enforcement. We try to connect with other local churches, schools, and non-profits already working for change in our neighborhood. How can we listen well and learn our neighborhood’s history and priorities? How are our neighbors already at work for peace and justice, and how might God be calling us to join them?
Finally, this team is working to create runways for Christ Church parishioners to get involved. These runways fall into three categories that we hope will be familiar to you: Be Together, Be Formed, and Be Sent.
We’re creating opportunities for Christ Church to simply Be Together in the Downtown Eastside. One of those is the map of local restaurants and coffee shops that we handed out this past summer. Several months back we scheduled a hangout at Lazarus Brewing, and about 70 Christ Churchers came out; we’re planning another one of those on February 24th from 4–6pm. And of course Guess Who’s Going Out to Dinner last July and our Parish Retreat in October were significant (and fun!) times of being together here in the neighborhood.
We’re also dreaming up ways for our parish to Be Formed, such as the book discussion groups that read Bob Lupton’s book Theirs Is the Kingdom together this past summer and fall. We wrote a curriculum that our small groups all went through in the early fall to get us engaging with how the scriptures call us to hospitality and to transformation. We’re working on our next large-format seminar similar to last year’s Engaging Homelessness Seminar (but on a different topic). And many from our parish hit the streets this past year on one of the Tejano Trails tours to learn about our immediate neighborhood’s rich history.
Finally, the Neighborhood Engagement Team is working to discern how God is calling us to Be Sent into our neighborhood in peace and mission. This past year, parishioners volunteered at Todos Juntos and began the process of mentoring at a local elementary school. We sent a crew to the Santa Rita apartments to do a mini-arts camp with children there in the summer. Look for us to roll out more ways you can get involved in the coming months.
One more thing: every other month we gather all the Christ Church parishioners who live in the neighborhood (we call them the Eastsiders) for a dessert. This month we’ll be discussing the recent University of Texas study on gentrification in Austin. I would encourage you to read it; the zoomable maps are fascinating, and Part IV has some interesting recommendations for next steps.