logo of the United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries
Summer 2012Vol. 2 No. 5 
Man using wheelchair with adapted fishing rod with his fish, Dad, and friend
Texas fisherman shows off his fish


of the

United Methodist

 Disability Connection


Greetings in Christ!   


This summer has been a very busy one, with Task Force members and other denominational representatives involved in a variety of events.  We provided Task Force resource information to 57% of the US Annual Conferences in 2012, and had opportunities to speak on the floor of several sessions.  That means that we have no contacts yet for 43% of Conferences. The good news is that people are stepping up to the challenge of creating a Disability Ministries team in Conferences which currently lack this.  


The Task Force meets in Denver from August 8th to 11th.  If you are in the area, join us for "Beyond Accessibility: Living out the Call to be the Church", a community event jointly hosted by the Task Force and University Park UMC on August 9th at 5:00pm.  


The articles for the Summer edition reflect some of the events of the summer.   We will return to theme-based issues in the fall.  


Lynn Swedberg, Editor

In This Issue
Certification Program for Disability Ministry
Institute on Theology and Disability
Disability Community Open Mic
NAMI Links Faith Communities
Camps for Deaf Youth

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Certification Program for Disability Ministry Launched
For those of us in the disability field, the most exciting news of the summer was that United Theological Seminary (Dayton, Ohio) will begin a program for professional Certification in Ministry with People with Disabilities.  Led by Dr. David F. Watson,
Dr. David F. Watson
Dr. David F. Watson.
the program will consist of 5 master's level classes.  The first course "Disability, the Bible, and the Church" begins September 4th.  The text is Amos Cover of The Bible, Disability, and the Church with stylized picture of woman pushing a man in a wheelchair outdoors Yong's The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision of the People of God. Most of the coursework will be done on-line, with a 4 day residency at the end of September.  Two additional classes will focus on comprehensive ministry with people with disabilities.  The other core courses are "Theology for the Practice of Ministry" and "United Methodist Studies", which may be taken at other recognized seminaries.  For more information contact 
Laura Weber at United. 
The program is endorsed by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, though the GBHEM website  is not yet updated to reflect this. To enroll in the Certification program fill out the application form and send copies to GBHEM and to your Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.  For more information contact Anita Wood. Potential applicants also need to enroll at United.  Scholarship funds may be available.
Certification has long been available for persons involved in Christian Education, Music, Children, Youth, and Camp/Retreat ministries, and more.  This new program fills an important gap in recognizing that Disability is also an valid speciatized calling that requires focused training and experience.  

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Summer Institute on Theology and Disability 

A number of United Methodists played leadership roles in the Third Annual Summer Institute on Theology and Disability held July 16-20 in Chicago.  The Institute has become the premier event where current research and thinking on Disability Theology is offered in an interactive format with ample opportunities for networking and discussion.  


Discussion this year challenged current acceptance of the word "inclusion" as the goal for congregations.  Inclusion, however admirable we deem it, implies that one group has the power to include those on the outside.  Persons with disabilities actively seek access, but have already been invited.  In her morning meditation, Rev. Lisa McKee (UM pastor, WV) 

Rev. John and Rev. Lisa McKee in front of the Bean sculpture in Chicago's Millenium Park
Rev. John and Rev. Lisa McKee

reminded listeners that "The invitation is God's, not ours." She said "People on the margins are not disruptions to be managed but a burst of creative energy from the Creator who continually seeks to renew creation."   Rev. Russell Ewell (Task Force member from MO), in his workshop "The Black Church, the Disability Rights Movement, and Liberating Theology of Disability" stated that inclusion is a passive word and we need other ways to think about how we can be empowering and liberating.  


Dr. Debbie Creamer of Iliff School of Theology (CO) was a keynote speaker, sharing her thoughts on how limits are part of the human experience, and how reflecting theologically on chronic pain helps

Portrait view of Debbie Creamer
Dr. Debbie Creamer

one better understand God and life.  See the Institute Blog for a full text of her talk.  Video versions of all keynote talks will be available at a later date. 


Katie Arnold, a local Chicago UM who heads the Sibling Leadership Network, spoke on the importance of reaching out to and listening to siblings of person with disabilities.  Rev. Betty McManus, a UM pastoral consultant with sponsoring organization Bethesda Lutheran Communities in Wisconsin, served on the music team that helped set the tone for each day.   


Lynn Swedberg (Task Force chair, WA) helped the Institute model full hospitality by acting as Accessibility Coordinator.  Her tasks included reformatting printed handouts for easy use by persons with low vision using screen readers and addressing environmental accessibility challenges.  Others may want to adapt the Accessibility Coordinator Job Description for their events.   


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Chicago Temple Hosts Disability Community Open Mic

As part of Disability Pride weekend in Chicago, the Chicago Temple First United

Katie and Gary Arnold in the Chicago Temple chancel
Katie and Gary Arnold

Methodist Church hosted an Open Mic evening on July 20. Following a reception, members of the disability community shared their talents and insights.  Original poems and stories offered the audience a glimpse of raw experiences and strong feelings in a manner that does not come out in casual conversation.  The evening ended with a rousing, interactive gospel sign choir performance; members dance as they signed. 


The church sanctuary, newly remodeled for full accessibility, easily accommodated many persons using power wheelchairs and other mobility devices.  All five areas of pew cuts were used.


Participants were asked to sign up ahead of time. For more information on planning a similar Open Mic event contact hosts Katie and Gary Arnold.  


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NAMI Conference Links Faith Community Groups

During the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Annual Convention in June two sessions were planned by the FaithNet special interest section.  Carole Wills of NAMI 

Susan Gregg-Schroeder and Carole Wills sharing a podium at NAMI
Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder and Carole Wills
Indianapolis is chair of the FaithNet Advisory Group and an active United Methodist.  Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder, a UM pastor from San Diego who coordinates Mental Health Ministries, also serves on the FaithNet Advisory Group.  


The sessions were set up to encourage networking.   They also highlighted local church and community ministries that educate faith communities and support persons with mental illness and their families.  Persons from a range of denominations and projects shared program successes and protocols.  For example, one community holds a yearly luncheon to provide pastors with training on reaching out to persons affected by mental illness.  A local church offers a monthly support group for individuals living with mental illness.  

NAMI Faithnet also offers an e-mail newsletter.  Check out past issues in the Archive and subscribe to receive future issues of this resource. 

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Camps For Youth who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

 What do you get when you cross one persistent mother with the Virginia Conference Commission on Disabilities (COD)? You get Camp Loud and Clear; the very first camp ministering to Deaf and hard of hearing young people in Virginia!  Since early 2001, members of the COD have dreamed and envisioned a camp specifically established to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to a population that is largely ignored by the Church Universal.  

It was a bright morning in July as I approached 4 H Camp Holliday, located at the end of a very long drive. I began to wonder if I was driving to the ends of the earth! Lake Holliday seemed to rise out of the trees, brilliantly blue and surrounded by large pines. As I carefully maneuvered my way around several large trees, I arrived at the end of the road...literally. The main building before me was circled with a series of smaller cabins, the camp office, cabins and the health center which was to be my home for the next three days.  

With more than a little trepidation I parked the van and went looking for people. I entered the main building, which was filled with the sounds of children laughing and playing while the adults had a slightly "deer in the headlights" look on their faces. It did not take long to realize this was highly organized chaos! Campers were being checked in, receiving name tags and their cabin assignments with instructions to return promptly at noon for lunch.   Youth who are wearing hearing aids get bait on their hooks for fishing

From Friday afternoon until Sunday late afternoon, the campers experienced all of the joys of camp among kids just like themselves. Swimming, fishing, crafts, devotions, drama, archery and the climbing wall filled their time. By nightfall they were more than ready to return to their cabins after vespers for a well-earned night's sleep.  

The counselors for Camp Loud and Clear represented a wide variety of denominations but all shared the common goal of providing these young people from 8-14 an enriching camp experience and a time to see themselves as God sees them: perfectly and wonderfully made! (Psalm 139) For many of the campers, this was the first time they were introduced to "Jesus Loves Me, this I Know;" and the first time many learned about Jesus.

My initial fears melted away with the heat. By Sunday afternoon closing worship we had become a true community of faith, encouraging each other, celebrating accomplishments and showing parents, sponsors, and the church the amazing work God can do wherever two or three are gathered in God's name.   

Submitted by Rev. Tizzy Von Trapp Walker, Task Force member; adapted from an article in the Virginia United Methodist Advocate.

Editor's Note: For a listing of other Deaf camps for youth see the United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministry's website. 

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Thanks to all, leaders and participants alike, who helped make the above events a success.  May you, our readers, find inspiration for your journey as you explore more deeply these resources and ideas.  



United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries

Contact us through the Task Force email address.