logo of the United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries
April 2011Vol. 1 No. 2

Braille hymnal, large print bulletins

Welcome table with Braille hymnal

and large print bulletins


of the

United Methodist

 Disability Connection


Welcome to the second issue of the Voice!  We are overwhelmed by the grateful responses that readers shared after receiving the first issue.  The common thread is that the newsletter provides encouragement to persons who feel they are working in isolation on disability issues in the church, and that readers appreciate useful resources and a positive approach.

Please forward this 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.  Topics for coming months include "Inclusive Camping", "Disaster Preparedness" and "Ramp Building Outreach Ministries", so please let the Editor know of effective programs and ministries in these areas. 

In case you wondered, the mission of the Task Force is:

Through advocacy, education and empowerment, the United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries will lead the UMC in creating a culture where people with disabilities are fully included in all aspects of worship, leadership and ministry. 

We trust you will join us in carrying out that mission, and know that many of you are already doing so!

Lynn Swedberg, Editor

In This Issue
Reaching Out to Young Adults with Disabilities
Task Force Submits General Conference Petitions
Upcoming Disability Training Events
Quick Links
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Reaching Out to Young Adults with Disabilities

This month the mainstream press including the New York Times and Parade Magazine raised awareness that record numbers of young adults with significant disabilities are ending their public school years with no safety net in place.  Graduating at a time when states face budget and service cuts, many are on waiting list for housing, day programs, or supported employment.  United Methodists are reaching out in response, offering alternatives to the all too common scenario of young adults staying home and watching television all day while parents are forced to quit jobs in order to provide care. 


Naomi Mitchum, Coordinator of Special Needs Ministries at Chapelwood UMC in Houston, TX, offers a ministry of advocacy, protesting her state's budget cuts.  At the same time she is called to expand her church's programming to include a day program for young adults that will meet once a week and provide productive activities that will benefit other people.  She also leads drumming circles and drama groups for teens and adults.  In addition to Sunday School and a VBS-type program, Chapelwood offers separate monthly support groups for parents of children, teens, and adults with disabilities.


At the UM Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS, the SonflowerSonflower Bakery sign and baked goods Bakery involves young adults in decorating baked goods that are sold in the church's cafe and used for fellowship events.  Some work 3 shifts a week, others one or two.  Volunteers provide assistance as needed, and participants earn gift cards plus select a goodie to take home after every shift.  The church recently added a fourth day of programming.  Young adults clean, sort, and repair the 2000 backpacks that church volunteers fill weekly with food for inner city children in Kansas City.  The church also offers Sunday School, adult Bible study, fellowship time, handbell choirs, scouting, and other opportunities for involvement in the life of the church. A monthly evening respite Family Night Out is also open to families of young adults.


Mt. Horeb UMC in Lexington, SC offers a monthly day respite program for young adults, and an evening program open for all ages.  One of the church's UMW circles has adopted the program as a project and provides the needed volunteers each month.  Respite organizers recommend using the Family Connections Respite Start Up Manual, an extensive resource that provides organizing tips, forms, job descriptions, and more including a comprehensive review of legal concerns.  Other church activities include Sunday School, a adapted VBS class, and a basketball league.


The Western North Carolina Annual Conference offers a different approach.  UMAR, founded in 1983, provides services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They provide housing in group homes in 12 of the conference's 15 districts, supported employment, and support services for individuals living in their own or guardian's homes.  Within the month they will open their first independent living home in Cornelius, NC.  One of the three residents helped build the home, alongside staff and volunteers.  Ruby Mossor, Church Cultivation Specialist, works with UM churches throughout the conference to provide awareness and training so that clients are supported by and integrated into faith communities.  She stresses the importance of building relationships to address spiritual along with practical needs, such as providing rides to church, purchasing unfunded necessities for residents and homes, and celebrating birthdays. 


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Task Force Update

 Task Force Submits General Conference Petitions


           The Long-Range Committee of the United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries has written four petitions to submit to the 2012 General Conference.  They express our desire to help make all United Methodist people more aware of those with disabilities and that such persons be welcomed into all levels of our church.  Several conferences have received copies of these petitions to be presented to their 2011 Annual Conferences.  The four petitions concern the following key points:

  • Making the UM Task Force on Disability Ministries a Standing Committee
  • Making changes to the Discipline paragraphs related to Clergy Incapacity Leave, renaming it Clergy Medical Leave and offering more advocacy and accommodations.  
  • Making Disability Awareness Sunday a Sunday with a special offering
  • Resolving that each Conference, in the quadrennium from 2013 - 2017, have a theme on disability awareness at one of its Annual Conference Sessions

 For more information please consult the Task Force's Advocacy web page. Your advocacy for these pieces of legislation, and for people with disabilities, is greatly appreciated.  Please hold these petitions up in your prayers, and remember the Task Force in your prayers, as we pray for you.  Together, we can help to ensure that our United Methodist Churches truly have "Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors"!


Grace and peace, Debbie Wade, Chair of the Long-Range Committee 


Other Members: Rev. Dr. Eric Pridmore, Rev. Dr. Al Herzog, Rev. Jim McIntire


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Upcoming Disability Training Events 

May 7th: A Place for All God's People: Inclusion for Those with Autism Spectrum Disorders is geared for teachers, pastors and leaders.  .5 CEUs  Location: UM Conference Center, Cranberry Township, PA.  ContactWestern Pennsylvania Annual Conference.


May 11th: Welcoming All God's Children: Ideas for the Inclusion of All in the Church offers a broad range of workshops including behavior management in the church setting, cultivating relationships with parents and caregivers, Disability 101, and outreach ideas. This is a Joni and Friends Through the Roof workshop. .5 CEUs  Location: Wesbury Community,  Meadville, PA.  Contact: Rev. Debbie Hills.  For more information: Erie-Meadville District.



As you gear up for Mental Health Awareness Month in May, here are two websites to help your congregation.  Remember that depression and other serious mental illnesses are common causes of disability, and that some people facing a new physical disability deal with depression as well.  Both of these sites help you learn to eliminate the stigma and journey alongside persons and families living with mental illness.

Pathways to Promise has a new training resource available for churches.  Three Powerpoint presentations, with accompanying leader's guidebooks, help congregations learn how to establish a mental health ministry, organize a mental health team, and develop a ministry of companionship and presence.  These can be downloaded at no cost.  The site contains many articles and links, as well as publications for faith communities available at a nominal cost.

Mental Health Ministries, founded by UMC pastor Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder, also has many print and media resources including DVD's, brochures, bulletin inserts, articles, and worship ideas to help faith communities respond to persons affected by mental illness.  "Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond" is a free downloadable resource/ study guide available in English and Spanish.  One chapter outlines the five step Caring Congregations model that includes education, commitment, welcome, support, and advocacy.


TIPS from the brochure "Creating Caring Congregations" include: Start with educating your staff and congregation, for instance by showing a DVD and having a facilitator lead a discussion, and by using bulletin inserts and newsletter articles.  Invite a person with a mental illness to share his or her story.  Offer space for support groups like NAMI to meet at your church.  Form a task force to explore how your congregation can be more welcoming of people with mental illness. Train companions to accompany persons in worship and fellowship.  Make sure prayers, liturgies, and sermon illustrations are inclusive of persons with a mental illness.  Provide those receiving care for a mental illness with prayer quilts, care baskets, and any other tokens of support that you would provide someone with a physical illness.  Find ways to reach out to and support family members, giving them the opportunity to break the painful silence that often surrounds mental illness.
As we celebrate the resurrected Christ and newness of life, may we begin anew to make our churches and hearts fully open to the gifts and graces of all of God's children.

United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries