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Texas Faith Communities Kick-Off Three-Day Health Justice Sabbath, Calling for Affordable, Quality Healthcare for All Texans
At a time when many Americans are wondering what might be in store for the U-S healthcare system (particularly in the Lone Star State, which leads the nation in both number and percentage of uninsured residents), Texas faith communities have a message for congregants and lawmakers alike: healthcare should be above politics.
Update 2: High-resolution video of the press conference is now online. Watch it on Youtube or embedded below.
Update 1: Full Health Justice Sabbath Press release now online. Download it here or read it below.
Nov. 18, 2016
Jeff Salzgeber: firstname.lastname@example.org, (512) 743-2659
Texas Faith Communities Kick-Off Three-Day Health Justice Sabbath,
Calling for Affordable, Quality Healthcare for All Texans
Beginning Friday, More Than 100 Congregations Across the Lone Star State to Focus on Healthcare During Special Prayer & Advocacy Weekend
AUSTIN, TX – At a time when many Americans are wondering what might be in store for the U-S healthcare system (particularly in the Lone Star State, which leads the nation in both number and percentage of uninsured residents), Texas faith communities have a message for congregants and lawmakers alike: healthcare should be above politics.
This weekend, more than 100 Texas congregations and faith groups are celebrating the state’s first Health Justice Sabbath. Through events and activities ranging from prayer services and sermons to blood drives and health fairs, Texans of faith are lifting up the intimate connections between health and all the world’s major religions. (To find an event in your community, please click here.)
“Faith communities are comprised of health care providers, consumers, and advocates. We celebrate the human mind and body as gifts of a loving Creator. Texans of all faiths are concerned about the politicization and polarization of health care in our state. We want to engage in meaningful, nonpartisan discussion about the future of health care for all Texans,” said Anne Sapp, president of the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy, which hosted a press conference today in Austin, kicking off the Health Justice Sabbath.
Themed Sabbath observances are common across faith traditions, according to Interfaith Center director Bee Moorhead. Moorhead said highlighting a particular issue—such as health—in the context of weekly worship opens up new perspectives and helps to clarify connections between public policy and religious beliefs.
"During a lotería fundraiser event a few years ago to help an uninsured member with medical expenses, I started to wonder what would happen if all the attendees would write their representatives instead of playing bingo. The Church needs to have a public voice on health care for all people. Iglesia Luterana San Lucas in Eagle Pass is participating in the Health Justice Sabbath by offering prayers of healing and inviting those in worship to mail postcards to our state representatives encouraging them to find a solution to our health crisis," said San Lucas pastor Rev. Paul Bailie.
"People of faith should care about health reform because we care about people's lives. Jesus Christ's ministry is scattered with healing stories, and we still get to be a part of the healing ministry of Jesus Christ through the healers in our time. Making healthcare accessible for all is like us ripping open the roof to allow the paralytic to be healed. It's going to take us all to help bring people to the healers," said Rev. Krystal Leedy of University Presbyterian Church of Austin.
Many congregations and faith traditions provide direct health care, to their members or to the wider community. Faith leaders say that their role as healers gives them a special responsibility to be involved in health care policy.
"Our mosque has a clinic, as do many mosques, because we believe providing health care is duty. We believe part of that duty is to work constructively with elected officials and others to build a sustainable health care system that serves the whole community," said Haider Imam, Austin Muslim community leader.
“My faith says that health is a gift from God, and it’s our responsibility to take care of the health of all members of the community. That includes praying for people who are sick; providing care directly; and advocating for fair access to care for all God’s children,” said Rev. Chuck Freeman, Executive Director of the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry.
Religious groups, historically, have been concerned with the health of vulnerable people, including the very young, the very old, and the poor. Texas faith communities have often decried the state’s lack of health coverage and uneven availability of health care.
“Texas is the worst state in the nation for the percentage of residents without health insurance. That was true before the Affordable Care Act, and it’s still the case today. Texans deserve health care as much as other Americans,” said Rev. Kevin Young of St. John's United Methodist Church in Lubbock.
"Our congregation has a lot of people who are sick, and we are praying for them. We are also praying for people in authority of power that they can find a way to work together for the sake of all Texans' health," said Rev. Billy Tweedie of Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Austin.
Clergy participating in Health Justice Sabbath said health care is part of the faith community’s broader call for freedom and opportunity for all people.
"Christians, if they follow Jesus, understand that liberation from sickness and that which leads to death are paramount to the good news he represented. When a person is healthy, she can more fully work for the greater good. Our prayer is that we work together to do Christ's will to heal the sick," said Rev. Arthur Stewart of Midway Hills Christian Church in Dallas.
"St. Stephen Presbyterian Church is proud to be participating in this year's Health Justice Sabbath. As Christians, our faith compels us to cultivate compassionate relationships with neighbors in our community, especially those who are most vulnerable. In doing so, we observe larger patterns of brokenness and injustice that go far beyond our own ministry capabilities. These patterns include the lack of access to quality, affordable healthcare for many - including members of our own congregation. On Sunday, we will pray for our neighbors - that they would experience healing, wholeness, and better health. We will also pray for ourselves - that we would be moved beyond prayer, to take action with the goal that all people receive the medical care necessary to enable them to live with dignity and purpose, as people created in the image of God," said Rev. Alex Cornell of St. Stephen Presbyterian Church of Houston.
The Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy is a faith-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 2000, providing theologically grounded public policy analysis to people of faith and other Texans. The Center is the research and education partner of Texas Impact, a 501(c)(4) interfaith legislative advocacy network
This weekend, more than 100 Texas congregations and faith groups are celebrating the state’s first Health Justice Sabbath. Through events and activities ranging from prayer services and sermons to blood drives and health fairs, Texans of faith are lifting up the intimate connections between health and all the world’s major religions. (Click here to find an event in your community.)
On Friday, November 18, Texas Impact began the Health Justice Sabbath weekend with a press conference at First United Methodist Church, Austin. Speakers included Rev. Taylor Meador Fuerst, Pastor at First UMC, Austin; Anne Sapp, Texas Interfaith Center For Public Policy Board President; State Rep. Donna Howard, Texas Legislature; Father Billie Tweedie, Pastor at Episcopal Church of the Resurrection; and Niki Lawless, Austin cancer patient without heath insurance. The press conference was broadcast live on the Texas Impact Facebook page.