By Sriya Reddy
More than 1,200 pastors and faith leaders will gather in mid-July to share ideas about how they can tackle mental health, social justice and other issues affecting the communities they serve.
Concord Church in southern Dallas will host the gathering July 11-13.
Mental health has become an increasingly serious issue since the coronavirus pandemic. Many have limited access to resources despite high rates of serious suicidal ideation in the past 30 days and an increase in substance abuse in 2020.
“You have a mental health crisis, of course the racial crisis, you have an economic crisis, you have all of these dynamics that continue to impact and influence the communities in which we serve,” said Pastor Bryan Carter, leader of Concord’s 10,000-member congregation. “Passionately, we are coming together to really learn and talk about how we share and preach in this context, but also how we do it effectively.”
“I think the mental health component is an ongoing issue that we’re facing, both personally and for the family,” he said. “Depression and anxiety, suicide among our young adults and teenagers, the last year’s grief — the grief of loved ones lost in the midst of COVID, but also the grief of life changes — is a significant part of it.”
Alongside mental health and social justice, workshops will tackle topics such as navigating a post-pandemic church and engaging young generations.
According to the Pew Research Center, there has been a decrease in those who identify with Christianity, or any particular religion. Those who identify with Christianity dropped from 78% in 2007 to 63% in 2021, the study said.
Carter said that while church attendance has increased over the last year, it is not yet at pre-pandemic levels. He said that in-person attendance is one way many people can reconnect with their communities.
Carter says that Black churches are some of the richest assets Dallas has in terms of community and influence. Many have nonprofit organizations attached to them, such as food pantries and economic empowerment and reentry programs for those coming out of prison.
“Dallas is incredibly blessed to have such a strong fabric of churches that are incredibly committed to helping to live out and make the gospel tangible for people,” he said. “And we still have a long way to go… We still have the wealth gap, and the gap between southern Dallas and North Dallas. We have some significant challenges there, but I do believe that many of the churches are working to find solutions.”