Disability Awareness Task Force (Report prepared March 9, 2020)
Our Mission is to lead the Susquehanna Conference in creating a culture where people with disabilities are fully included in all aspects of worship, leadership, ministry, and mission. We will work to advocate for the needs of people with disabilities, empower people with disabilities, and educate members of our churches and communities about issues related to disabilities and disability awareness.
The Members of the Disabilities Ministries Task Force: Clergy: Rev. Rebecca L. Holland (Chair), Rev. Mitch Galloway, Rev. Craig Gommer, Rev. James C. House, Rev. Jennett Wertz, Rev. Robert Stump, Rev. Carol Gathagan, Pastor Julie Rosensteel Laity: Mrs. Pamela Harker, Ms. Abigail Kane, Mr. Jerry Post, Mrs. Wendy Albright, Mrs. Lisa Lupold, and Mr. Jeffery Holland. Partners: Rev. Evelyn Madison (Mental Health Task Force, Chair), Rev. Ed Zeiders (Child Advocacy, Chair) Our History-On January 18 2019, the
How We Are Making Disciples –
The Disability Ministry Task force is a group of laity and clergy who believe in the importance of fully incorporating all people into the Body of Christ. The Disability Ministry Task force seeks to not only minister to people with disabilities, but to be in ministry with people with disabilities. The Disability Ministry Task Force seeks to empower the people with disabilities who are already connected to our churches for leadership, provide radical hospitality to people in our communities who have disabilities, and advocate for the needs of both clergy and laity with disabilities in the Susquehanna Conference. Concern for people with disabilities is rooted in our Biblical call as Christians as well as in the church polity of the United Methodist Church. Jesus himself gave us a mandate to serve, “the least of these (Matthew 25:40).”
The Book of Discipline 2016, ¶653, states, “There shall be in each annual conference a committee on disability concerns or other structure to provide for the functions of this ministry and maintain the connectional relationship.” It also states that, “The basic membership of the committee shall be nominated and elected by established procedures of the respective annual conference. Each annual conference shall determine the number and composition of the total membership.” The Social Principles state that, “We recognize and affirm the full humanity and personhood of all individuals with mental, physical, developmental, neurological, and psychological conditions or disabilities as full members of the family of God (¶162I).” The Social Principles also affirms that people with disabilities have a “rightful place in both the Church and society,” and the need for the church to be in ministry with “children, youth, and adults,” who have “mental, physical, developmental, and/or psychological and neurological conditions,” or other disabilities that might make it more challenging for them to participate “in the life of the Church and the community.”
What We Have Accomplished in the Past Year
In the past year, we have accomplished the following tasks:
- A member of our committee, Rev. Jennett Wertz, served as the ASL interpreter for Annual Conference 2019. Jenett Wertz graciously offered to volunteer her time in order to interpret any written portions of the worship services, including prayers and hymns. We are grateful for Rev. Wertz’s service. The ASL Interpreter is both an accommodation and a tangible symbol. Her presence at Annual Conference is a clear display that our conference is making an effort to include all people in the family of God.
- We helped to provided accommodations for Annual Conference 2019. Members of our group worked with those who planned Annual Conference 2019 to help to provide priority accessible seating. We also posted the bulletins for the conference’s worship services on our website (DisabilityUMC.org) so that people with print disabilities could access the material in a digital format. The digital format is the preferred format for many people who are blind, dyslexic, or have low vision.
- The Susquehanna Conference celebrated our very first Disability Awareness Sunday on October 19, 2019. Thanks to a resolution passed at Annual Conference in 2018, our conference recognized the second Sunday in October as Disability Awareness Sunday. The goal of this special Sunday was to raise awareness and promote full inclusion of people with disabilities in the life of the church. Donations received through the advance went directly to the Disability Ministries Committee of the United Methodist Church. This group supports disability ministry throughout the greater United Methodist Church.
- We maintained our website and renewed our unique domain name (DisabilityUMC.org). In order to make disciples, we have worked to communicate the fact that God loves all people and that all people are of sacred worth; therefore, we have created a website to communicate this message. Our website includes resources, news, and a blog. Our website is a way to collect resources and share information that will be helpful to the people of the Susquehanna Conference. The website has resources that relate to issues of disability, advocacy, outreach, empowerment, and awareness. You can find our website at: DisabilityUMC.org
- We maintained our Facebook Page and used social media to promote disability awareness. Our Facebook Page has over two hundred “likes” and continues to grow. We post regularly to the Facebook Page in order to continue to raise awareness and communicate disability related news. You can find us at @SUSUMCDisability.
- We deepened our connection with the Disability Ministries Committee of the United Methodist Church. The UMDMC provides training, advocacy, and research with the entire connection. We are proud to be connected with the UMDMC. You can find more information about their work at UMCDMC.org.
- We supported educational opportunities to promote disability awareness and disability ministries. Rebecca L. Holland (chair) was invited to speak at the Bishop’s Retreat/ Preaching Festival (January 20-22) at Hershey Lodge about Disability Ministry. She was also invited by Peggy Johnson and the Disability Committee of Peninsula Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church to speak at the Disability Awareness Day in Dover, DE.
- We created educational materials. Rebecca L. Holland (chair) wrote and published a book entitled The Unite Methodist Church and Disability. The book can be used as a resource for clergy and churches who are interested in disability ministry. It ranked as a number one best-selling new release on Amazon in the categories of Methodism and Ecclesiology.
- We have deepened our connection with Child Advocacy. The Disability Ministry Task Force is continuing to explore ways in which we combine our efforts with Child Advocacy to help children with disabilities.
Our Future Plans for 2020-2021
We have established the following goals for the coming year:
- Pray for the life of the church and especially for the needs of clergy and laity with disabilities.
- Educate & Advise: The Disability Ministries Task Force will make themselves available to speak with and advise local churches who have questions about ways in which they can become more accessible. The Disability Ministries Task Force will also provide seminars, webinars, workshops, and other educational opportunities for individuals and local churches who are interested in learning more about accessibility issues, disability awareness, and empowering people with disabilities. Our goal is to have at least one resource person in each district.
- Advocate for the needs of clergy and laity with disabilities.
- Offer support to conference boards of Discipleship (camping, Christian education), Global Ministries (disaster and mission programs, health-care institutions), and Older Adult Ministries to help them ensure that their ministries promote full participation for persons with disabilities.
- Raise Awareness: Members of the Disability Ministries Task force will work to raise awareness that the committee exists and wants to help churches and individuals.
- Disability Awareness Sunday: We have presented a resolution to Annual Conference 2020 to continue to observe Disability Awareness Sunday as the second Sunday in October for the year of 2020. This special Sunday is to be used to promote awareness about issues related to disabilities, provide a space for people with disabilities to participate in worship leadership, and (if churches choose to do so) a special offering will be taken for Advanced Special #3021054 to benefit The United Methodist DisAbility Ministry Committee. This special offering will support the ongoing efforts of disabilities ministries throughout the global United Methodist connection.
- Sensory Friendly Family Camp (designed for children with autism): Rev. Rebecca L. Holland (chair) will be leading a camp for children with autism and their families at Mt. Asbury Retreat Center(July 27-29). This camp is specifically designed for children on the autism spectrum and their parents. There will be creative, meaningful and fun sensory games for children, as well as a special time for parents to learn, support one another, and grow together. Everyone will get to participate at their own pace and can choose to take breaks as needed.
Where Do I Begin?
If you are looking for easy ways to make your church more accessible, we recommend the book The United Methodist Church and Disability by Rev. Rebecca L. Holland. You can also find an abundance of great resources on our website at (www.DisabilityUMC.org) or at the website for the DisAbility Ministries of the United Methodist Church ( UMCDMC.org).
Are you a clergy person with a disability?
We encourage you to view the work of The United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities at UMDisabledMinisters.org and to consider joining our caucus.
Serve with Us!
Is God calling you to serve on the Disabilities Ministries Task Force? We are especially looking for laity to serve with us. If you are interested in joining the Task Force, please contact Rev. Rebecca Holland. You can also contact us for questions or other inquiries at our website at DisabilityUMC.org. We would love to hear from you!