I’m very fortunate to be part of a group of 10 Central Texas Christian clergy that are meeting every couple of months over the next year or so to develop our leadership skills as pastors present in public life in our communities. We are Methodist, UCC, Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran. We are from San Antonio, Hutto, Caldwell, Dripping Springs, and points in between. In this fellowship funded by the Lily Foundation, we get to come together for three-day retreats on the campus of the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin and listen to fabulous speakers and facilitators on leadership and engagement, demographics, race, and more. State, regional and community leaders share their wisdom, and we share with each other. You can read more about the Pastoral Leadership in Public Life program here.
One thing that really struck me at our last meeting was the realization that engagement in public life includes much more than traditional political structures (City Council meetings, legislative visits, etc.). We were encouraged to get involved in civic life in our communities in many different ways. Here is an excerpt of the report I submitted this time about my “community actions” in the past two months, which were inspired by my learning in this fellowship opportunity. It has been great to get involved in the Dripping Springs community in new ways, and to learn more about the place I live and work and pastor.
I attended Lutheran Legislative Days Monday, February 29, 2016 – There I signed up for Texas Impact newsletter, and onto Facebook page. There I also learned more about the importance of knowing how water decisions are made in our community, and that the regional water planning groups of the Texas Water Development Board are a good place to start. (See below.) We were also encouraged to connect locally to faith-based governmental programs, like “Congregations Helping in Love and Dedication (CHILD), a partnership with Child Protective Services (see below).
I attended the Texas Night Sky Festival Saturday, March 5, 2016 in Dripping Springs- My stated goal for my local action this period was in part to connect with the Hays Co. Master Naturalists, and I visited with them at their table at theNight Sky festival. I talked with the about what they do. At home, I checked into the training to be part of this program- it starts in yearly in February- I put on calendar to apply in Dec. At the Festival and researching more afterwards, I learned more about Dripping Springs Night Sky Policies, including new agreement between City and DSISD about athletic field lighting.
Hays Co. Master Gardeners – Visited their table at the Dripping Springs Community Library, April 7, 2016. Talked with two gardeners for a long time about our church and community garden project. They are available to help with education and plants and hands-on work. I also got information on good plants for an area on our property that needs some help. I have contact information to connect with them—we will definitely use this resource. They were excited to learn about what we are doing at New Life.
Contacted Texas Adoption Resource Exchange about their CHILD (Congregations Helping in Love and Dedication) Project – (found out about it at Lutheran Legislative Days) – One of our leaders contacted them first, and we will be involved with them: probably in adopting a local caseworker to connect with specific needs of local foster families. I met with our leadership team and we voted to move ahead—we will work out specifics of our involvement soon.
Attended the Region K Lower Colorado River Water Planning Group Meeting – April 13,2017. This became my primary Local Action goal after attending Lutheran Legislative Days. I connected with a Blanco Co. Water Board Vice President who will help me learn the process more and connect me with Hays Co. representative. North Hays is in Region K, but the rest of the county is in anther region (L). I will next try to find out the local meetings, and attend one of those. I learned about the Texas Comprehensive Water Plan, public input process on that, and how money is allocated for it: I feel more educated–like I didn’t know that the vast majority of Texas water goes to crop irrigation.