Welcome to UCC Disabilities Ministries!

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This site is designed and maintained by the UCC DM web team to help members and friends of the UCC explore what it means for our churches (and our hearts) to be “accessible to all” (A2A Study Guide).

  • How Do We Become A2A?
  • Why A2A? The mission of the United Church of Christ is to be Multiracial, Multicultural, Open and Affirming, and Accessible to All – A Church where everyone is welcome.
  • What is the A2A mandate?

Widening the Welcome 2015 is Coming Soon

Register now for Widening the Welcome 2015, which will be held in Hartford, Connecticut on September 24-26, 2015, before the rate goes up on Friday, Sept. 4.

Widening the Welcome 2015: Inclusion for All will celebrate the theme “Your gates shall always be open; day and night they shall not be shut.” (Isaiah 60: 11 NRSV) with speakers and workshops designed to assist congregations in welcoming and ministering with people with disabilities and/or mental health challenges. Keynote speakers include The Rev. Dr. Christina Jones Davis speaking on “The Journey Towards Inclusion,” and The Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell speaking on “Inclusion 2.0: Envisioning What Comes Next.”

Complete information, including links to the registration packet, on-line registration, hotel booking, and ADA airport/hotel transfer information, is available now here:

Widening the Welcome 2015

UCCDM Annual Meeting for 2015 Announced

The UCCDM Annual Meeting for 2015 has been scheduled. The Annual Meeting will be held at the Windsdor/Hartford Marriott Hotel in Hartford, CT starting on Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 4pm and running through Tuesday, September 29 at 12:00 noon.

UCCDM Board Directors are expected to attend. According to UCCDM by-laws other persons who are interested in attending may do so , at their own expense. This meeting will not be webcast. If you have interest in attending or for more information, contact the Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas at kelli@womenwhospeakinchurch.com.

Top 10 Ways Churches Can Include People With Disabilities

At General Synod 30 in Cleveland, Ohio, June 26th – June 30th UCCDM participated in the Friday night worship service.  Our participation included our Chair Rev. Lynda Bigler and Vice Chair Rev. Jeanne Tyler presenting the Top 10 Ways Churches Can Include People With Disabilities.  Received with overwhelming response by attendees we are republishing them.  You can find out more about the Chair Rev. Lynda Bigler and Vice Chair Rev. Jeanne Tyler on our board member page.  

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  1. Provide rides for people who can’t get there on their own.
  2. Add a T-coil loop system for those who don’t hear well.
  3. Provide 22 pt font large print bulletins.
  4. Provide wheelchair cutouts with GOOD views of the chancel.
  5. Do not judge noisy or squirmy adults or children.  Leave them be!
  6. Have accessible bathrooms people can get to without having to go OUTSIDE to get there.
  7. Invite people with disabilities to sing in the choir, ring bells, and read scripture in worship.
  8. Invite people with disabilities to take leadership roles.
  9. Learn how to include people with intellectual disabilities.
  10. Be WISE. Welcoming. Inclusive. Supportive. Engaging.

UCCDM Update June 2015

Grace and peace to those who may be interested in the work of the UCC Disability Ministries Board–Friends, UCC Members, UCC Clergy, UCC persons with disability and our ecumenical partners,

This is to provide you with an update of the work of the UCC Disability Ministry (UCCDM) Board of Directors since our last update published for March 2015.

This year the UCCDM Board of Directors is arranged into four subcommittees focused on Stewardship and Philanthropy, Special Events, Education, and Publishing, Identity, and Communication (PIC). There are a few other subcommittees focused on specific tasks for the UCCDM such as the Nominating Committee and the Virginia Kreyer Scholarship Committee. All these subcommittees have been very active this quarter. The highlight of our work this quarter includes:

Stewardship and Philanthropy
The UCCDM Board decided to put some of the gift from the estate of the Rev. Virginia Kreyer into the Kreyer Scholarship and to invest the remainder for the future work of the UCCDM.

Special Events
General Synod 30: Arrangements for the UCCDM and UCCMHN booth as well as the UCCDM sponsored lunch to be held at General Synod 30 have been made. A new UCCDM banner has been ordered for the occasion. A video presentation about the history and work of UCCDM has been created for a Synod presentation celebrating 25 years of the ADA.
Registration for Widening the Welcome 2015 is now open! Widening the Welcome will be held September 24-26th in Hartford, Connecticut. Widening the Welcome 2015 Flyer.
Additional financial support for the Widening the Welcome Conference is being sought. You are invited to contact the UCCDM if you have thoughts about how to do this.

Education
A new booklet explaining the A2A process and a brochure on disability etiquette have been approved!
Work on revisions of “Anybody, Everybody, Christ’s Body” the A2A study document have been put on hold due to the large nature of the task.

Publishing Identity, and Communication
Envelopes for special offering to benefit the Virginia Kreyer Scholarship was created and will appear for the first time at General Synod 30.
Volunteers presented UCCDM Booths, presented workshops, and/or shared information at the Annual Gatherings of the Northern California Nevada Conference, Penn Central Conference, Southern California Conference, Rocky Mountain Conference, and the Vermont Conference.
Those wishing to present UCCDM materials at their conference annual gathering in 2016 should notify the UCCDM Secretary, secretary@uccdm.org, of this no later than January 2016.
A new booklet about the A2A process and new brochure on welcoming people with disabilities have been printed. Both will be available at General Synod 30.
An accessible press release about Widening the Welcome 2015 was added to uccdm.org.
The domain name of uccdm.org was renewed.
The email secretary@uccdm.org was established to ease leadership transitions on the Board.

Virginia Kreyer Scholarship
Rev. David Denham traveled to the Garden City UCC in New York to preach and receive an offering for the Virginia Kreyer Scholarship. Garden City UCC was Rev. Virginia Kreyer’s church of membership for many years.

Nominating
A call for UCCDM Board of Directors nominations was sent out via uccdm.org and thorugh the Conference offices to fill a seat vacated on the Board. A new Board member will be announced when the nominating process is complete. UCCDM Officers for the 2015-2017 term will be announced when all have been elected.
Three congregations have been chosen to receive UCCDM Awards for outstanding achievement in providing opportunity for all. Two persons with disabilities who have made outstanding contributions to church and/or society and two persons without disabilities who have made notable contributions to the lives of persons who have disabilities will also receive UCCDM Awards. Award winners will be announced at the UCCDM Sponsored Lunch entitled “Come Celebrate With Us! 25 Years of ADA” on June 28, 2015 at General Synod 30..
Four delegates representing UCCDM will attend General Synod 30 as voting delegates, they are Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas, Rev. Susan Burns, Dr. Kevin Pettit, and Ms. Danielle Rochford.

Ecumenical Work
Rev Jeanne Tyler represented the UCCDM at the National Council of Churches (NCC) recent gathering. Rev. Tyler reports that the NCC will focus on the issue of mass incarceration for its program work over the next two years. Rev Tyler notes mass incarceration is an important topic for people living with mental health issues.

The UCCDM has been busy spreading the word about disabilities ministries. We would like to hear how you too have been working for inclusion and accessibility in your UCC context. Won’t you share your story?

Peace of Christ,
Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas
UCCDM Secretary

UCCDM Update March 2015

Grace and peace to those who may be interested in the work of the UCC Disability Ministries Board–Friends, UCC Members, UCC Clergy, UCC persons with disability and our ecumenical partners,

This is to provide you with an update of the work of the UCC Disability Ministry (UCCDM) Board of Directors since our last update published in November 2014.

At last Fall’s Annual Meeting, the UCCDM Board organized itself into four subcommittees: 1) Stewardship and Philanthropy, 2) Publications, Identity, and Communication, 3) Education, and 4) Special Events. Below are some highlights of the things we have been working on.

Stewardship and Philanthropy
The UCCDM Committee to establish the Virginia Kreyer Scholarship received a $10,000.00 matching grant to encourage donations to the fund. Thus, any individual or congregational donations to the Kreyer Fund up to $10,000 between now and the end of 2015 will be eligible for matching funds! Make your donation today!
The UCCDM Board was notified that the Virginia Kreyer Scholarship will be the recipient of an offering at Synod 2015.
The UCCDM Board was notified that the UCCDM had received a gift from the estate of Rev. Virginia Kreyer to further the work of UCCDM.

Special Events
UCC Disabilities Ministries will be sponsoring a Luncheon at Synod where we will celebrate the ADA Anniversary and present the UCCDM Awards. Look for the UCCDM booth at Synod.
Widening the Welcome 2015 is scheduled to be held September 24-26th in Hartford, Connecticut. Widening the Welcome 2015 Flyer

Publications, Identity, and Communications
This committee is working to update the UCCDM website with necessary and important details.
Infrastructure such as email address @uccdm.org are being established to support the work of UCCDM into the future.
Members of the UCC were invited to contribute to a Lenten devotional series reading the lectionary text from the lens of disability.
Discussions about a UCCDM logo have begun.

Education
A group is working on revisions of “Anybody, Everybody, Christ’s Body” to serve as an A2A Curriculum.
Plans are being made for a training about disabilities and UCCDM for UCC staff.
UCCDM continues to be involved in the development of ecumenical disability theology.
A toolkit for churches to become A2A is being developed.

The Board looks forward to a productive year spreading the word about accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities in the all aspects of the life of the church. We would love to hear what your congregation is doing to increase inclusion!

May the Peace of Christ Remain with You,
Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas
UCCDM Secretary

Can You See Me?

Can You See Me? is an article that was originally posted on the Southern California Nevada Conference UCC Webpage.  The author, Rachel Chapman, is a present board member of the United Church of Christ’s Disabilities Ministries.  Rachel Chapman’s biography can be viewed on our Board of Director’s page.  

Upon entering the sanctuary I head toward the narrow space between the steps to the dais and the wooden divider in front of the first pew. It’s a tight fit but I do it. As the portable microphone is brought down and put in place for my message, someone says they expected me to take the ramp up to the dais so I “could be seen…”

I didn’t because I had a plan. My message for the evening’s service was to raise awareness of being Accessible to All.  It began:

  “Most of you know I can stand and even walk, although I admit it’s not always very graceful. I am opting to give the message from my scooter, not because I’m tired or because it’s convenient.  I am making a point that when I’m on my scooter, some people do not see me.  Notice I did not say they can’tsee me.  I’ve come to realize that when I am on my scooter, some people do not see me, consciously or subconsciously. People choose to look past me, partly because they do not look down and/or they look at me then look away.   Seeing people who are different from us sometimes takes us out of our comfort zone, but seeing people who are differently abled, physically or mentally, tends to really make us uncomfortable. Why do you think that is? It’s an attitude.
    “Martin Luther King, Jr. said the 11:00 hour on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.  I believe that, but I also believe it is the most alienating hour. Whether brown, black, yellow or white; whether church, temple, synagogue or sports stadium, people who are differently abled are seldom made to feel welcome.  Studies show the percentage of people who describe themselves as having a disability and who attend church at least once per month is significantly lower than the general population. Now as the likelihood of attending church increases as one ages, just as the likelihood of developing a disability increases, you would expect that the number of congregants with disabilities would be greater than the general population, not smaller.
    “A few years ago the Harris Interactive survey determined  that people with disabilities (of any severity) are not just significantly less likely to attend worship services but are 35% more likely tonever to attend a worship service because they are less likely to feel welcome or comfortable in houses of worship.  I know that some of you are thinking ‘we’re welcoming…we have a ramp and accessible parking spaces’ and that’s great BUT there is so much more. It’s about attitude!”

One of the UCC tag lines is “Jesus didn’t reject people, and neither do we.”  It was developed for the LGBT community but I believe it’s fitting for everyone. In Mark 5, we learn that Jesus did not reject the woman with the issue of the blood.  And in Luke 5 when the man with leprosy came to Him, he was not rejected; or when the faith of friends brought the man who could not walk and lowered him through the roof, Jesus did not reject him either.  The man who lived in the tombs, possessed by demons…mental illness in today’s world, was also not rejected.  So, how can WE, the church, reject those who are different?

Look around you.  Whether we admit it or not, everybody struggles with something! We are charged in 1 Peter 5 verses 9-10 to ‘offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.’ Our churches will find themselves abundantly blessed by the gifts differently abled persons have to offer, if we just change our attitude!

So what can we do to be more accessible to all? The UCC Disabilities Ministries Board is in the process of developing a guide to help churches become accessible.  We must start by removing all barriers that keepanyone from fully participating in the life of the church by adopting an attitude of inclusion.

First, recognize that not all disabilities are physical.  Also recognize that Lord willing, we will all live to an old age but that aging process may not always be kind.

Have patience with the child with attention deficit disorder who can’t sit still during service.  Show compassion toward the mom who is doing her best.  Rethink how to approach the veteran who seems standoffish but in fact may be suffering from PTSD and is uncomfortable with others in his or her space.  Acknowledge with a smile the person sitting next to you.  He or she may have an unshared diagnosis of depression and needs one small glimmer of hope to keep from jumping off the bridge on the way home.

Be sure to face people when speaking to them, including coming down to their level by pulling up a chair if talking to a person in a wheelchair or scooter.  Always speak directly to the person, not just to their companion.  Stress the person, not the disability, such as saying, “she’s a woman who is blind” rather than a “blind woman.” And always ask before assisting someone.

Let’s change our attitude from rejection to inclusion and from inaccessible to accessible.  More guidelines to the process of becoming accessible to all are available.  I will be happy to talk with those interested in learning about them.

My message ended with Romans 12 verses 12-13:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Widening the Welcome 2015

UCC Disabilities Ministries and UCC Mental Health Network
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (June 3, 2015)
Contacts: Rev. Alan Johnson, revalan2014@comcast.net or Rev. Susan Burns, revsusanburns@gmail.com

The United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries (UCCDM) and the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network (UCCMHN) are happy to announce that the fifth Widening the Welcome: Inclusion for All Conference will be held at the Hartford/Windsor Airport Marriott Hotel on September 24-26, 2015, in Hartford, CT. Registration information, including link to on-line registration is available now here:

Widening the Welcome 2015 Brochure

Widening the Welcome 2015: Inclusion for All will celebrate the theme “Your gates shall always be open; day and night they shall not be shut.” (Isaiah 60: 11 NRSV) with speakers and workshops designed to assist congregations in welcoming and ministering with people with disabilities and/or mental health challenges. Keynote speakers include The Rev. Dr. Christina Jones Davis speaking on “The Journey Towards Inclusion,” and The Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell speaking on “Inclusion 2.0: Envisioning What Comes Next.”

Workshops will include “Accessibility and Medical Issues,” “Accommodation and Accessibility in the Local Church,” “Any Body, Everybody, Christ’s Body: An Introduction,” “Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family and Church,” “Caring for Individuals and Communities Affected by Trauma,” “Coming Out of the Basement: Understanding 12-Step Recovery and Seeking a Connection with God,” “Congregations and Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention,” “Disabilities and Mental Health 101,” “EDAN (Ecumenical Disability Advocacy Network),” Equipping for Effective Ministries with and to the Autism Community,” “A Pastor’s and Congregation’s Viewpoint of Working and Living Toward Inclusion,” “The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities,” “Theology and Disability: Considering the Margins,” “WISE Up to Mental Health,” and “W.R.A.P (Wellness Recovery Action Plan.” There will also be special session featuring Valerie Tutson, “Sawubona. YEBO” (A Zulu Greeting), and Jin Hi Kim’s Cross-Cultural Music Meditation.

“Widening the Welcome: Inclusion for All” was termed “a movement within the movement” of the UCC by General Minister Geoffrey Black. UCCDM and UCCMHN welcome all UCC churches and conferences as well as our ecumenical partners seeking to do ministry with persons with disabilities and mental health challenges to send representatives to join us on September 24-26, 2015 for this fifth historic gathering. This is also the first of the four prior national conferences that will be held in the east so as to make it available to people in this region of our country.

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For more information and registration visit the WtW web site at: Widening the Welcome Website

WtW is also on Facebook at: Widening the Welcome on Facebook

WtW event site can also be located at:  Widening the Welcome Facebook Event Site

Photos from the 2011 WtW conference can be found at: Photos from the Widening the Welcome Conference 2011