logo of the United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries
September 2012Vol. 2  No. 6
items available at disability kiosk including ALDs and large print
An intentional church anticipates people with disabilities


of the

United Methodist

 Disability Connection


Greetings in Christ!   


The UM Task Force on Disability Ministries is excited to announce a mission opportunity being planned for Kenya next year.  To the best of our knowledge this will be the first UM VIM (Volunteers in Mission) team of persons with disabilities and therapists who want to use their specific skills in partnership with local disability groups.  We hope you will consider joining the trip and will spread the word.


In the course of the summer we visited several churches that were eager to show us the changes they had made to become more accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities. We share their stories below, and would love to hear more about your programs for future articles. Upcoming topics will include confirmation for persons with intellectual disabilities and ministries with persons and families affected by dementia.  Write to the Task Force e-mail to tell us what works for your church! 


May you be energized and inspired to continue making a difference in your congregations and beyond.   


Lynn Swedberg, Editor

In This Issue
Is Kenya in Your Future?
Churches Strive for Intentional Hospitality
Highlights from 2012 Task Force Meeting
Upcoming Events

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Is Kenya in Your Future?
There is nothing as life-transforming as international mission work. Your gifts and skills in the field of rehabilitation and disability can be a blessing for people around the world.  

A United Methodist mission team from across the US is forming to go to Kenya for 2 weeks to work in the Disabled Community Centre and the Maua Methodist Hospital in Maua, Kenya from July 24 to August 10, 2013. We will be joining a Deaf Ministry mission Schoolchildren using sign language in Kenya team that will be working in 2 area schools for children who are Deaf or have a disability. Carol Stevens, who has led 5 other Deaf ministries teams to Kenya and 8 teams to Zimbabwe, will be the national coordinator. 
One member of the first team in 1998 was a Deaf woman who also has cerebral palsy. Her greatest gift was her disability as she stood smiling knowingly at the disability worker in Kenya telling a group of parents to feed their disabled children like they feed their able- sign with aim of Njia school in Kenya bodied children and not to starve them. Since that first trip to Kenya the disabled community in Maua has progressed from a small social group with lots of hopes and dreams to a large, organized group with 10 workers with disabilities, a large building and several motorcycles to reach the dispersed community of people with disabilities and their families.  

The team can use people with a variety of disability-related skills and experiences. In addition to physical, occupational, and speech therapists, we welcome special education teachers, rehab nurses, family members, and carpenters or wheelchair mechanics. We hope that pastors and others with disabilities can also take part, but all participants need to be able to walk up a flight of stairs, as there are no ADA-style accommodations.
We will stay in a secure, clean local hotel with buffet meals. We will also go on a 1 day animal safari at Samburu National Reserve. The estimated cost of the trip will be $4000 per person, not including funds for purchasing needed supplies and equipment .  

If you want more information as you prayerfully discern if God is calling you for this mission trip, please send an e-mail to Carol Stevens or Lynn Swedberg by October 15, 2012 to be included in the planning. Your gifts, your skills, your imagination, and your faith will be expanded as you serve as the hands and heart of Christ. 
Submitted by Carol Stevens 

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Churches Strive for Intentional Hospitality  

What shows that a church is intentional in its outreach and inclusion of persons with disabilities? Certain characteristics became apparent in three recent accessibility visits. Intentional churches demonstrate their hospitality in a variety of ways.

The congregation's website mentions disability, often providing access information and a link to the disability advocacy committee. The site posts pictures of persons with visible disabilities participating in congregational activities. The welcome statement Welcome sign board at Rose City Park communicates that the church wants to be a body that reflects the diversity of God's world. The site lists support groups for persons with mental illness and/or other disabilities.  

Upon arriving at the church people with disabilities see indicators that they are expected, starting with marked accessible parking spaces. In the narthex assisted listening devices are visible, and copies of that Sunday's sermon are placed where parishioners can easily locate them.
University Park UMC in Denver designed a Disability Kiosk as a place for people to pick up disability kiosk listening devices, large print bulletins and hymnals, and other tools to make participation in worship easier. They also created a convenient, restroom door with signage about automatic door and family use well-marked, accessible family restroom so that caregivers of the opposite gender can assist as needed.  
The sanctuaries have generous pew cuts, often in several places. If the chancel is not accessible the church is working on achieving that. The congregation has spent a substantial amount of money to remodel for accessibility.
Chicago Temple First UMC faced significant obstacles with a traditional ramp that leads directly to chancel and pulpit sloping floor and high chancel platform. They solved this by raising the floor which made a ramp to the chancel possible. They have pew cuts in four different places, pew cut with half of two pews removed offering ample seating choices. Sanctuary lighting was increased 500% and a new sound system installed as part of the improvements. 
A committee which includes persons with disabilities identifies and removes barriers on an ongoing basis. The committee is lay-led but supported by the pastor(s). Persons with disabilities are regularly involved in worship leadership and other ministries.   
Rose City Park UMC in Portland, OR developed an access matrix based on input from Platform lift to chancel at Rose City Park many people who looked at their building and practices to see how welcoming they were. They toured the facility many times, looking at it from different angles and points of view. One result was the installation of a platform lift to ensure chancel access. The church provides the worship bulletin in alternate formats, including electronic for people who use screen readers. The committee holds annual disability awareness classes. The church partners with "Ride Connection" to offer weekly transportation, using a lift-equipped bus owned by an agency that doesn't need it on Sundays. 

These churches agree that becoming more inclusive and accessible is an ongoing process. Each congregation has a list of additional goals and projects, and a good chance of reaching those goals. 
Highlights from the 2012 Task Force Annual Meeting 

The United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries met at the University of Denver in August to make plans to transition to Committee status. As of January 1st, 2013, we will be the UM Committee on Disability Ministries. 


Members of the Task Force in their matching blue shirts with the disability connections logo We welcomed new members Rev. Sharon McCart from Irvine, CA, representing the Western Jurisdiction, and Debby Newman from Minneapolis, MN representing the North Central Jurisdiction. Rev. Justin Hancock of Dallas, TX, representing the South Central Jurisdiction, met with us via Skype. We said farewell to Rev. Dr. Al Herzog, Rev. Liz Moen, Rev. Jim McIntire, Beth DeHoff, and Niels French, and thanked them for all the work they have put into bringing the Task Force to this point.

The Task Force elected officers, adopted bylaws, and set goals for the next quadrennium. Debbie Wade is now chair, Rev. Russell Ewell will remain vice-chair, Rev. Sharon McCart is secretary, and Mike Dyson remains Treasurer.  

The highlight of the meeting was an evening community event "Beyond Accessibility: Living Out the Call to be the Church" hosted by University Park United Methodist Church. Staff from the Rocky Mountain Conference welcomed us and helped plan and promote the forum. Local non-profit agencies set up information tables, allowing attendees from area churches and organizations to learn about services and opportunities available. Fellowship began during the reception and continued after the presentations. Panel members briefly addressed Disability and the Church from a variety of secular and faith-based points of view, then answered many questions from the audience. We pray that the dialogue will be ongoing. The format worked so well that we will offer a similar event at next year's meeting in North Alabama.  

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Upcoming Events

October 5-6, 2012                                               Matthews, North Carolina

2012 Southeast Disability Summit                    Joni and Friends, Charlotte

Practical training designed to equip churches for Disability Ministry- more than 25 workshop options over 1 1/2 days.  Register online or call 704-841-1177.


October 17, 2012                                                Dayton, Ohio

8:30 am - 4:30 pm                                                United Theological Seminary     

2012 Heck Lectures: "Christians and Disability: Renewing the Church and Healing the Photo of Dr. Amos Yong World" featuring Dr. Amos Yong, Professor of Theology at Regent University School of Divinity and author of The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision of the People of God (2011), and of Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity (2007). Livestreaming will be available.  

For more information consult the brochure or contact Brice Thomas at United.  You may register on-line.  

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As the season changes and we begin a new year in ministry may we make bold changes to ensure that all are welcome in all of our churches.  



United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries

Contact us through the Task Force email address.