Together We Serve: Third Ward Collaborative Health Fair
By: Sherri Gragg
Boynton Chapel UMC, Riverside UMC, Trinity UMC, and Trinity East UMC pooled resources and gifts to bring healthcare to the Third Ward.
“We are stronger together.” This guiding beacon of our connectional system has led the United Methodist Church to join hands to advance the Kingdom of God across the globe. Together we have fed the hungry, comforted the suffering, and sought justice for the oppressed. Together we have taught children to read, sheltered the victims of violence and disaster, and taken the good news of the Gospel throughout the world.
And together four churches from Houston’s Third Ward are working to strengthen the bodies, minds and souls of their neighbors in need. This past February 18th, lay leaders and pastors from Boynton Chapel, Riverside, Trinity, and Trinity East pooled their talents, resources, and hours of service to bring the first Third Ward Collaborative Health Fair to their community. The event brought together panelists and vendors from throughout the Houston area under one roof to address the most pressing health issues facing residents of the Third Ward including, but not limited to, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
During the summer of 2017, Dianne Iglehart, director of the Church and Society ministry at Trinity, attended Trinity’s “Faith in Action” workshop as part of her preparation and planning for the next year of ministry. During the course of the workshop, she gained a wealth of valuable information about collaborative ministry. She also had the opportunity to get to know other local UMC lay leaders who were passionate about serving the Third Ward. As the women became friends, they began to envision combining their efforts to provide a health fair to meet their neighbor’s most pressing needs. They presented their proposal to pastors Rev. Linda Davis (Boynton Chapel UMC), Rev. Nancy Jo Cobbs (Trinity UMC), Rev. Marilyn Marie White (Trinity East UMC), and Rev. Warren Austin (Riverside UMC) and received their enthusiastic support.
Working Together: Caring for the Third Ward
Over the next several months, Iglehart, Shelton, Henderson, and Carradine spent countless hours in planning and preparation for the health fair. As word spread about their endeavor, the resulting excitement drew wider and wider support, including the participation of interns from Texas Southern University and the University of Houston. The final program for the health fair featured four informative panel discussions, health screenings, and over 20 vendors who provided a wealth of information on health and wellness. Between panel discussions, participating physicians were available in the “Doctor’s Corner” for consultations.
The benefits of the health fair were not limited to the community it served. Local non-profits and health care professionals benefitted from the opportunity to learn from each other and establish new partnerships along the way.
Perhaps the most lasting and significant achievement of the day is the most difficult to quantify. The Third Ward Collaborative Health Fair has cultivated tremendous energy in the four participating churches as they invest in strengthening the bodies, minds and souls of their neighbors. It has also inspired them to continue to work together on future projects.
A Model of Collaborative Ministry
Rev. Kimberly Mabry, Director of Golden Care and Golden Cross, believes the health fair is a wonderful model for other communities. “These four women are still too close to the event to realize how many seeds they have planted. The health fair generated so much energy. I heard discussions about a variety of support groups addressing issues in which peer to peer counseling is essential, such as prostate cancer, sickle cell anemia, and chronic diabetes,” Mabry said.
Mabry hopes other churches will search for similar ways to work together. As she continues her work with Golden Care and Golden Cross, she will point churches in the Texas Conference to the example of the Third Ward. “They have loved each other and their community well,” Mabry said. “It is the power of the connectional system.”