logo of the United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries
March 2011Premier Issue
Task Force members visiting accessible amphitheater at Bradford Woods camp

Task Force members visit accessible amphitheater at Bradford Woods Camp


of the

United Methodist

 Disability Connection


Welcome to the Premier issue of the Voice!  This newsletter will connect all United Methodists and friends who believe that including people with disabilities is vital to the Church becoming whole.  We envision faith communities in which all are welcome, valued, and empowered to participate.  The Voice is created by the United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries, but invites contributions from all who share our passion. 

The Task Force consists of 10 representatives, 2 from each Jurisdiction, as well as GBGM support staff and liaisons with related disability groups.  We started in 1992 as the United Methodist National Task Force on Developmental Disabilities.  We know that a small group of 17 people cannot change the culture of the church to one of inclusion and accessibility - it will take all of us working together.  This newsletter will share stories of ministries that can be replicated, tips for implementing changes, and upcoming training events.  We will provide you with resources so you don't have to start your ministry from scratch.  The Voice will also keep you informed on the work of the Task Force and ways that you can get involved. 

Who is the United Methodist Disability Connection?  You are a part and the Task Force is a part of this new movement.  We look forward to partnering with you!

Lynn Swedberg, Editor

In This Issue
Indiana celebrates Disability Awareness Sunday
Upcoming Regional Disability Conferences
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 News from the Jurisdictions


Disability Awareness display board 
Indiana AC Celebrates
Disability Awareness Sunday

The Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church hosted its first statewide Disability Awareness Sunday March 20. Churches across the state observed the day with special litanies, music, drama and sermon topics.

"Disability Awareness Sunday is simply a way to acknowledge that our hearts, minds and doors are open to all people with disabilities," said Beth DeHoff, who leads the Indiana Conference Disability Concerns Team.

                Why hold a Disability Awareness Sunday? Chances are good that you have children and adults in your church who have disabilities. Chances are greater that you have many others who live in your church's neighborhood without a church home, as fewer than half of families who have a family member with a disability attend church.

According to the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, one in every 101 Indiana K-12 students has an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. One in every 693 babies is born with Down syndrome. Approximately one million people in the United States have cerebral palsy. Millions more have other disabilities.  All of them are children of God. All of them have unique gifts and personalities that transcend - or perhaps illuminate - disability. It is this large body of individuals with disabilities and unique gifts that we celebrate on Disability Awareness Sunday.

That is all Disability Awareness Sunday needs to be - a celebration of all God's people. The Indiana United Methodist Conference, as well as the United Methodist Church's national Task Force on Disability Ministries, provides resources for prayer, liturgy, presentations and music for worship. For information on Indiana's Disability Awareness Sunday, visit Indiana AC Disability Awareness . For general information about the Conference disability concerns committee, visit Indiana AC Disability Committee. The Virginia Annual Conference also has a 2011 Disability Awareness resource packet at Virginia AC Disability Awareness .


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Upcoming Disability Training Events


*On Saturday, April 2nd a regional conference on Inclusive Congregations will be held at Aldersgate UMC in Wilmington, DE.  It is sponsored by the Eastern Pennsylvania, Greater New Jersey and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences of U.M.C., but open to all.


This conference will focus on the barriers and opportunities in developing a welcoming, inclusive and vibrant community in and outside the church. The keynote speaker is Ginny Thornburgh, who has spent 40 years as an advocate for people with disabilities. She serves at the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) as Director of the AAPD Interfaith Initiative, which aims to support people with disabilities and their families as they seek spiritual and religious access. She co-authored and edited That All May Worship, From Barriers to Bridges, and edited Loving Justice: The ADA and the Religious Community. She is a parent of a son with intellectual and physical disability.


Workshops include Developing and Preparing for Inclusive Worship; Theology of Disability; Is your Church Ready? Assessing Physical and Behavioral Accessibility; Starting a Ministry with Deaf Persons; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders and a Panel Discussion by Consumers, Families and Caregivers. A brochure and registration information are available through Greater New Jersey AC.



*On Friday and Saturday, April 15-16th the Yellowstone Annual Conference will hold a Disability Concerns Workshop Train the Trainers Session at Lewistown UMC in Lewistown, MT.  Extensive handouts, including the GBGM Disability Concerns Power Point CD, will be provided so that attendees can replicate the training in their churches and districts.  Advanced Lay Speaking credit will be given to lay speakers who attend.  Contact Howard Guetherman for more information.


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GBGM recently launched an comprehensive revision of the Accessibility Audit for Churches, available at GBGM Disability ConcernsThis 74 page booklet can be downloaded in 5 sections, which give background information, practical suggestions, and links to guidelines and resources. 

Tips include having signs that are easy to read from the street and sidewalk that direct people to the nearest accessible  entrance.signs pointing to accessible entrance  Can drivers locate the accessible parking and entrances without having to get out of their cars when they arrive at your church? 

If you have a large campus, for instance at a camp, college, or large church , consider having a campus map posted near the main entrance, close enough to the road that drivers can clearly see where they are and where they are headed.  Make it even easier for visitors by placing copies of a campus map (with accessible parking and entrances clearly marked) in a waterproof map holder that can be reached from the car. 

Book of the Month: Autism and Your Church: Nurturing the Spiritual Growth of People with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Barbara J. Newman, 2006, Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive Christian Resources.  If your ministry hasn't yet included a child or adult with autism, chances are that very soon you will have this opportunity.  This book is recommended by workers in Christian education and camping as the most practical, comprehensive book available to help you learn to support persons on the autism spectrum so that they can participate in your programs.  After helping the reader understand typical communication, social, and behavioral differences that are often present, the author provides a wealth of strategies to try.  Written in lay language, this book is a "must-have" for every Christian education and camp library.

One tip is to use clear pictures to supplement written and spoken materials.  Post a schedule for the day or session with a photo or line drawing of each task to aid in helping all learners know what to expect.  Write a simple illustrated story to orient your students ahead of time to a change that will take place.  Try printed signs, such as a stop light with green, yellow, and red "lights" to indicate when it is free time, group time, or quiet time.  Make time segments easy to track with the use of a "Time Timer" which features a red field that grows smaller as the timer hand moves toward zero.  All of these interventions decrease stress by adding an element of predictability.

Please forward this your newsletter to your friends and colleagues so we can expand the mailing list and get the word out!  Tell us what you would like to read or know more about.  Share your ideas, programs, and upcoming events with us.  May we grow together as we journey through Lent toward the Easter that warms our hearts and reminds us why God has called us into ministry with all of God's children.



United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries