logo of the United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries
November 2012Vol. 2 No.7
rhythm instruments used for worship
Rhythm instruments ready for use in worship


of the

United Methodist

 Disability Connection


Greetings in Christ!   


Church leaders ask us how to support the spiritual growth of children, youth, and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  We highlight two diverse ministries this issue, and provide resources that are effective with persons who function at various levels.  When possible confirmation and Christian education are provided in an inclusive classroom.  The ideas from the ministries discussed here can be adapted for general use, or for a class that intentionally pairs youth with disabilities with typical peers. Other programs serve the many adults who never had a chance to be part of a local church in their youth.  


Another approach to confirmation is to offer a separate, shorter, simplified version aimed at youth and young adults with intellectual disabilities.  Naomi Mitchum from Chapelwood UMC in Houston helps parents to realize the important commitment they are making when their children take the 5-week confirmation class.  The course foundation is a strong curriculum taught by leaders and pastors trained in meeting the needs of learners with disabilities. Once the group starts, "it's God's class and if you have good intentions it's going to be OK."  When participants ask "You mean they want me to join them?" and realize the answer is "Yes!", she knows they understand what belonging to the church is all about.


Lynn Swedberg, Editor

In This Issue
Retreat Helps Young Adults Grow in Faith
u/abiity Offers Range of Spiritual Supports and Programs
In Memoriam: Jo D'Archangelis
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"Walk with Jesus" Retreat Helps Young Adults Grow in Faith
 "I never knew God was a loving God," stated one of the participants during the "Walk with Jesus".  Another student, a young Deaf woman, told of being dropped off at Sunday School as a child for years, but not understanding about Jesus until she attended the retreat.

"Walk with Jesus" is a weekend spiritual encounter for young adults who are Deaf and/or have intellectual or other disabilities. It is based loosely on the Walk to Emmaus program and offered annually by the Methodist Mission Home in San Antonio. Up to 18 students who are receiving vocational assessment and training through the Home sign up voluntarily for the interdenominational Walk. 
 Sign language (ASL) interpretation is provided throughout the event. 

Three volunteers standing by the symbolic house
Leaders Carol Williams, Rev. Carl Taylor, & Gina Symons
The talks are short and use many visual props to get the message across that Jesus loves each person just as they are. For instance, a scale model house is used to represent each person's spiritual house: My heart = Christ's home. The house is filled with trash to start with, indicating that many of us need to clean house to make room for Jesus, who helps with the mess because we can't do it on our own. God's grace is explained and demonstrated room by room, starting with Jesus standing on the porch, knocking on the door.

Another visual tool is a heart container that is locked and tied in knots, symbolizing our hearts before we let Jesus in. The young adults learn how God unlocks their hearts and fills them
Volunteer demonstrating the symbolic locked heart
The Rev. Greg Edwards demonstrates the locked heart
  with his love.    

Not every activity is serious! Craft projects and humorous skits also help students integrate the concepts they are learning.

The weekend highlights include an evening flashlight walk to the outdoor chapel.  Participants can't sign while using the lights, so this simulates a silent walk for Deaf students who live in a silent world and don't equate silence with spiritual preparation.   A wordless, mimed clown communion is the closing worship service. The clowns relate the story of Jesus and his sacrifice in a tender way that makes the gifts of Jesus very real to everyone partaking.

"Walk with Jesus" is entering its 17th year of serving young adults in San Antonio. The leaders are open to partnering with others who would like to conduct a similar retreat. They ask that potential leaders first volunteer at the Methodist Mission Home event in order to receive training and experience. They will then send several team members to participate in the program at the new site. The Walk leaders are willing to share the curriculum they have developed with groups that partner with them to spread Christ's love to others who haven't experienced it.  Contact Carol Williams for more information.


u/ability Offers Range of Spiritual Supports and Programs 

"God and Jesus! Hallelujah! 

I pray the Lord my soul to keep. 
God be with you! 
My soul to keep. 
When invited to share their prayers, participants at the 11:00 Believers Garden worship service at University United Methodist Church in San Antonio line up excitedly to offer their concerns and thanksgivings. Others clap, call out "yeah", or find additional ways to support those praying.


The service begins with praise music while residents from area group homes and their caregivers arrive over an extended period of time. Participants pick up rhythm instruments as they enter, offer a hug or high five to friends and visitors, and make their way to tables set up for the informal service. Members are eager to help pass the offering plates. Susan
Susan Galindo stands by display on A Servant's Heart, Helping Hands
Director Susan Galindo
Galindo, director of the u/ability program at University, asks attendees where their money goes and they can identify eight different projects they support.  One hundred percent of the offering goes to support those in need locally, in the US and worldwide. The 120+ members of Believer's Garden give over $3,000 a year to make a difference in the lives of others. 

For five months this spring, this worship experience for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities also served as a confirmation class for persons interested in church membership. Concepts from the church's confirmation curriculum were introduced in a concrete manner, using object lessons and repetition to get the point across. The Trinity, for instance, was explained using an egg as an example: the yolk, white, and shell together make up the whole egg. Apples were passed out and cut apart to share, allowing worshipers to see that skin, flesh, and seeds are all part of the same apple.


Susan believes that "their soul and spirits aren't disabled. Their thoughts don't get in the way. They may not understand time and geography, so we have to find something that they relate to and present it adult to adult." The class covers baptism, the Bible, free will, salvation, grace, communion, the Holy Spirit, Methodism, the creeds, and confirmation vows. More than 60 group members chose to join the church and 20 were baptized last year.  


Spiritual growth and support play a key role in other u/ability programs. BINGO and dances start with prayer and devotions, and Christian music is played. The church offers a Bible-based spring break day camp for children with disabilities and their siblings. Children with disabilities can attend mainstream church school classes or be part of a self-contained
Light tube and fiberoptic toy in sensory room
Props from sensory room
classroom.  U/ability has set up a sensory room as a calming place that students can visit when overstimulated. For adults, a Religion in Everyday Life class takes place prior to worship. All participants are free to attend the praise service or traditional worship if they choose.


Adults can learn to use their gifts in a vocational day program. They assist church staff with weekday and Sunday tasks such as cleaning, set-up and breakdown for the skate board service, meal service and clean up for a Senior Lunch program, recycling, shredding, church school material preparation, and much more. Members help with a coffee kiosk which earned $9000 toward program costs last year. U/ability has become an indispensable part of the church. To learn more contact Susan Galindo
In Memoriam: Jo D'Archangelis 
 In Memory of Jo D' Archangelis July 1, 1940 - August 6, 2012 

Jo D'Archelangis It is with great sadness and regret that we report the passing of Jo D' Archangelis on August 6, 2012.   Jo meant so much to the members of the Conference Committee on Disability Concerns of the Cal-Pac Annual Conference.  She had a vision years ago to educate pastors and their congregations within that Annual Conference concerning accessibility issues and what it is like to have a disability and have to rely on a wheelchair for mobility.

Jo, with support of her church (Fallbrook UMC), founded and edited "WINGS - A Faithletter for United Methodists with Disabilities and Those Who Care About Them" in August 1990. Using her degrees in English and Philosophy, she poured her heart and soul into "WINGS". The newsletter name is based on the hymn "On Eagles' Wings" and Isaiah 40: 31.  Copies of newsletter issues from 1996 to 2012 can be accessed in the Archives on the United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities website.

After the Cal-Pac Disabilities Committee was started in September of 2001, the first annual Accessible Church award went to Fallbrook, which was also one of the first churches to hold a Disability Awareness Sunday service.

Jo helped establish a conference-wide Spiritual Life Retreat for Persons with Disabilities and their Caregivers which was held at several camps.  Jo attended the camp for a number of years and was involved in the ministry and outreach of the camps.

Jo was respected by her peers for her work supporting people with disabilities.   Jo's life was an inspiration to many.  She touched many lives throughout the years and her ministry will be missed.  She gave us all hope for our disabilities.   Her dedication to "WINGS" and making sure it continued all these years was truly amazing. Today, Jo has a new set of wings and she's flying high above the clouds.

Submitted by Joyce Brownlee,
Former co-chair, Disability Concerns Committee, Cal-Pac Annual Conference  


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Credo: Confirmation Teaching Plans for Including Youth with Special Needs (2011) by Diane T. Murphy, available for download through Cokesbury.  This supplement to the United Methodist 18-session confirmation curriculum provides additional material and adaptions for youth who may need support to successfully participate in the church confirmation program. 


Expressing Faith in Jesus: Church Membership for People with Cognitive Impairments Cover of Expressing Faith in Jesus showing a youth in tie and white shirt (2005) by Ron Vredeveld, available from Faith Alive Resources. With its companion Resource Kit, this Friendship Ministry guide helps churches of many denominations prepare youth or adults with intellectual disabilities for baptism, confirmation, or profession of faith.  While not a curriculum, the book outlines a process of coming alongside persons with disabilities who are ready to be full members of their church.  It can be used on an individual basis, or for a group of persons with disabilities who may already be meeting for fellowship and study.  


McGuire Memorial Awakening Spiritual Dimensions: Prayer Services with Persons with Severe Disabilities (2006) by William L. Gillum, published through AuthorHouse.  Based on his work as chaplain at a home for persons with profound disabilities, this book offers an approach suitable for use with persons who are non-verbal and have limited ability to move or communicate their understanding.  The National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry has more  information about this multisensory prayer service and program.


United Methodist educator, writer, and ministry director Naomi Mitchum's website has many helpful articles, including 


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This is the last issue for 2012, as we are transitioning to an every other month format.  The January 2013 issue will be the first under our new name and status: the United Methodist Committee on DisAbility MInistries.  The deadline for submission of upcoming events and other news for that issue is January 5th.  We would love to hear what is happening in your churches and conferences! 


May the peace of Christ fill your hearts and activities during the busy Advent and Christmas seasons.



United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries

Contact us through the Task Force email address.