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Austin Interfaith ASEC Core Team

The All Saints' Austin Interfaith Core Team has completed its report on the outcome of the house meetings held in April and May 2017. Our conversations indicated a high level of concern for our ministries to the aging and to children an youth, as well as concern for the issues of homelessness and lack of affordable housing in our city. Leaders have stepped forth to help us take action in all these areas, and volunteers are invited to help them.

You can read the report below or pick up a hard copy at the Church between services, July 23rd.
Or you can download the report here: http://allsaints-austin.org/uploads/forms/Outcome_of_House_Meetings.docx



REPORT
TO: The Clergy, Vestry, and People of All Saints’ Episcopal Church
FROM: The Austin Interfaith Core Team
RE: Outcome of House Meetings, Spring 2017
DATE: July 10, 2017

In April and May we held a total of 8 house meetings in which 66 members of our congregation participated. The purpose of these meetings was to “take the pulse,” as it were, of the congregation: To discover the most pressing concerns in our common life, within both our church community and our civic community of Austin, to identify those who are prepared to lead our response to these concerns, and to organize groups to take action.

First of all, the overwhelming majority of participants expressed a deep appreciation of All Saints’. Many facets of our life together were positively affirmed. Those most frequently mentioned were:
• Worship experience – the architectural beauty of our church building, stirring music, our liturgical style, and dynamic preaching
• An atmosphere of tolerance for a wide range of beliefs, including deep spirituality and free thinking
• The clergy
• Service ministries – Loaves and Fishes, Micah 6, and Habitat for Humanity, etc.
• Opportunities to become integrated into the parish community through participation in groups – Daughters of the King, choir, altar guild, lectionary group, supper clubs, etc.

In response to the question, “What concerns you and your family most about our life together in All Saints’?” the groups converged in a strong concern for two areas: Our aging congregation and our declining ministry to children and youth. In response to the question, “What concerns you and your family most about our life together in Austin?” two concerns repeatedly surfaced: homelessness and affordable housing.

Aging Membership
This reality was seen as both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s an opportunity in the sense that it opens up an area of ministry in which we could be more intentional. It’s a challenge in the sense that an aging membership also tends to imply a shrinking membership. How can we better serve our growing elderly constituency while also attracting and retaining younger members? Several dimensions of this concern were prominent in the conversation:
• Keeping the elderly involved in and in contact with the congregation to the greatest extent possible at each stage of their aging
• Supporting the middle-aged children now faced with the issues of caring for their aging parents
• Raising awareness of the need to consider end-of-life questions in advance – medical power of attorney, do-not-resuscitate orders, wills, funeral and burial plans, etc.
• Having intergenerational activities that engage young and old alike
Whatever emerges along these lines will need to be coordinated with the Grace Ministry and Saints on Call, which are already doing some of this work.

Mary White has agreed to chair an action team that will work on these concerns. Joining her will be Michelle Carlson and Nancy Lynch, with Nanci Felice in a consulting role. Anyone else who would like to participate in this working group should contact Mary (maryewhite05@gmail.com).

Children and youth
As it turns out, concern with this issue had already surfaced and begun to gather momentum even before it was registered in the house meeting discussions. Lee Read had already voiced her concern and begun to enlist volunteers to do a reassessment of the Sunday School program. The house meeting discussions thus provided a boost to this effort that was already underway. The group that is forming includes Melissa Agnese, Rosemary Stewart, and Madre Cynthia Caruso. In addition, the following have agreed to serve as Sunday School teachers: Edward Abili, Sam Berry, Donna Clift, Megan Dowell, Allison Gaylord, Nora Jeffrey, Jessica Johnson, Tristan Ketcham, Steve Lemmon, Cara Mueller, Sarah Peet, Barbara Reyes, Sharon Smith, and Merry Wheaton. Their goal is to begin putting their plans into effect with the start of Sunday School this coming fall.

In addition to improving the Sunday School program, one other matter surfaced in the house meeting discussions, which we commend to this action team: Adding to the children’s program a dimension of greater support for parents, including the provision of parenting resources as well as child care to give parents some free time

Anyone who is interested in participating in this work should contact Lee Read (hleeread@gmail.com; 512-632-2431).

Homelessness
Although this is not a problem, as far as we know, for any members of our own congregation, it is a highly visible problem that our members experience both up close and from a distance. This is obviously a large and complex problem, but there are programs in our community that are dealing effectively with various aspects of it. Charlotte Frazier is gathering information about these programs to see if there are some that we might want to become involved with, whether individually or as a congregation. Anyone interested in exploring this possibility should contact Charlotte (athomefrazier@aol.com; 512-301-8730).

Affordable Housing
From the house meeting discussions, it became evident that this is an increasingly critical concern for middle-income as well as low-income households. Rising property values, and the attendant rising property taxes, are making it too expensive for many current residents to stay and for new families to move in. We feel that this is too big a problem for All Saints’ to try to address by itself in any effective way. We therefore propose joining with other institutions in Austin Interfaith to determine whether there are any feasible courses of action that we might take together.

An Austin Interfaith action team is currently analyzing how CodeNEXT, the proposed revision of Austin’s land use code, affects the availability of affordable housing. David Guarino and Michael Floyd of All Saints’ are members of this group. When the action team completes its work, sometime in the near future, they will conduct Civic Academies at various member institutions to inform the Austin Interfaith constituency on the code revision issues relating to affordable housing. Out of the ensuing discussions we will decide whether Austin Interfaith should take a position and try to influence any particular principles or provisions of the proposed CodeNEXT.

We propose that All Saints’ host one of these Civic Academies and encourage attendance, not only from our own congregation, but also from the various neighboring University area churches, including those that do not belong to Austin Interfaith as well as those that do. Anyone who would like to know more about this work should contact David (dsguarino@gmail.com; 512-826-1549) or Michael (michaelhfloyd@yahoo.com; 512-712-4397).

We are thankful for the level of participation that we had in this round of house meetings—which was very good for our first time—and for the leaders who are stepping forward to help us take action on the concerns that were identified. We will report back to the congregation on the progress being made in dealing with the internal issues mentioned above, and also keep you informed on the ways in which we can collaborate with fellow members of Austin Interfaith to make a positive difference in the life of our city.

Faithfully,
Your Austin Interfaith Core Team
Nancy Bernhardt Nancy Lynch
April Floyd Anne Province
Michael Floyd Richard Ribb
Charlotte Frazier Merry Wheaton

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