Is Your Congregation Ready to Explore Accessible to All (A2A)?

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The UCCDM encourages all setting of the United Church of Christ to be Accessible to All (A2A)!

New tools are NOW ready to help local congregations determine how accessible their programs and buildings are. (Accessibility is more than a ramp!) This tool is called the Church Building And Program Accessibility Audit. This church accessibility audit can be completed online (Church Building and Program Audit ONLINE). It is also available to be printed as a PDF (UCCDM Church Building and Program Audit 12 pt PDF), LARGE PRINT PDF (UCCDM Church Building and Program Audit 16 pt PDF), Word Document (UCCDM Church Building and Program Audit 12 pt WORD), and LARGE PRINT Word Document (UCCDM Church Building and Program Audit 16 pt WORD).

Once a congregation completes a building and program audit and has identified how to become more (or continue being) inclusive of people with disabilities or/and mental health concerns, the congregation may be ready to become Accessible to All (A2A). To become A2A a congregation completes an A2A Checklist. The checklist was revised in 2016 is available to be completed online (UCCDM A2A Checklist ONLINE)or printed as a PDF (UCCDM A2A Checklist PDF) or in LARGE PRINT (UCCDM A2A Checklist LARGE PRINT PDF).

Congregations that complete the A2A Checklist are added to the A2A Listing!

Annual Meeting of the UCCDM Board of Directors

The United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries Board of Director’s Annual Meeting will be held on Thursday September 29 and Friday September 30, 2016. The meeting will take place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Addison, Illinois. Some Board members will arrive early to attend the Pathways to Promise Conference on September 28th.

UCCDM By-laws allow for persons interested in the work of the UCCDM to attend the Annual Board meeting at their own expense. This meeting will not be webcast, limited conference call access may be available. Anyone interested in attending this meeting should complete the Call to the UCCDM Annual meeting 2016 form. Anyone needing accommodations to attend this meeting should contact the UCCDM Chair, Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas at chair@uccdm.org no later than September 15th.

Reaction and Action

Upon learning of the Tuesday morning attack at a residential center for people with disabilities in Sagamihara, Japan, I wept.

I wept for the sleeping souls who will never again awaken, for their families and friends left to mourn their sudden and tragic deaths. I wept for my brothers and sisters with disabilities who may feel afraid, and I wept for our world. Tears of anger and sadness.

Calling a friend to ask if she had heard this horrifying news, felt like something I needed to do. As we talked about the senselessness of this massacre, she said something that seemed profound. “Let’s just pray that we, as two people on the phone, and we as a society, never get so callus that we do not react with tears and anger at the news of such tragedy.”

This was powerful because it seems every day we wake to tragedy and injustice being reported from somewhere. How often do we feel shaken by the violence reported on tv, in social media and we react, but don’t respond? But what do we do? Of course we want to pray to a Comforting God and ask for peace. I think we should. Like the imprisoned John the Baptist, my heart questioned. So my next conversation was with my pastor. My pastor suggested that I use this pain and turn it into action. And another friend suggested I write a prayer. So my first action was to write some thoughts, and my second to share them.

A dear friend gave me a wonderful gift, a book that I often turn to, and I’d like to share with you a poem as a prayer…

Taken from Out of the Ordinary, Copyright 2000 by Joyce Rupp. Used by permission of Ave Maria Press. All rights reserved.

Leaning on the heart of God

I am leaning on the heart of God.

I am resting there in silence.

All the turmoil that exhausts me

Is brought to bear on this great love.

No resistance or complaint is heard

As I lean upon God’s welcome.

There is gladness for my coming.

There is comfort for my pain.

I lean, and lean, and lean

Upon this heart that hurts with me.

Strength lifts the weight of my distress.

Courage wraps around my troubles.

No miracle of instant recovery.

No taking away of life’s burdens.

Yet, there is solace for my soul,

And refuge for my exiled tears.

It is enough for me to know

The heart of God is with me,

Full of mercy and compassion,

Tending to the wounds I bear.

I will be taking further actions to speak out against the violence of ableism. I pray others will do the same. Awareness of this, often discreet, dehumanization of people with disabilities, is key to stopping the violence. Continued prayers for peace, mercy and love for all peoples.

Terry Martinez

UCC Disabilities Ministries

Board of Directors, Vice Chair

“Come and see for He is risen!”

This is a second Easter entry, the thirteenth, in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2016 series. This devotional reflection comes from Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas. Her bio can be found on the Board of Directors page.

“That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10:37-10:41)

“Come and see!” That is the shout for today and we have walked a long Lenten road to hear it. In receiving this message we become witnesses to the fact of the resurrection.
The gospels are full of messages of Jesus’s ministry, including Jesus’s healing of people with various illnesses. The healing stories of the gospels can be troublesome for some people with disabilities. The trouble with “miraculous healings” occurs when one is not healed as another may suppose. What then? There is a history of people with disabilities being blamed and shamed for being less than “faithful” when they are not “healed”. There are places around the world today where people with disabilities are seen as demon possessed and may actually be subject to physical harm if not “healed”. (It is why we need international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.) Healings are part of the gospel and yet they remain troubling.
Then there is my own story. I was born with cerebral palsy (CP). I was born paralyzed on the right side. It is said I used my right hand to reach out for a toy at six months of age. It was not a miraculous cure. There were many other issues from the CP that would remain part of my life. My mother will sometimes say it was an answer to the prayers she said as she faithfully did my physical therapy. I’ve never been completely comfortable with that. I put in countless hours of multiple physical, occupational, and speech therapies well into my teens. If it was all prayer, why did I have to put in so much effort? Why do I still? But the truth is I do not know how it happened–I can not say it was all one thing and none of the other. What I do know  is that I have been fundamentally changed and that the spiritual presence of Jesus has been a constant in my life. I know I am a witness to the Risen Christ’s presence because there are things I have experienced in life and in the world I can explain no other way.
This is one reason I know I am called by God to preach about Jesus the Christ. This all sometimes confuses people who meet me and do not perceive that I have disabilities. Sometimes people have demanded proof of my disabilities. So sometimes I have to just laugh at those who do not believe my witness. And I trust that the Risen Christ will be made known in healing them too.
Dear God, we ask that You would watch over those people with disabilities who may be in danger. We ask you would grant us all hope. And that you would cure our unbelief. Amen!

 

Called by Name

For Easter Sunday, the final day that we’ll be posting the 2016 UCCDM Lenten Devotional series, our devotional reflection was written by Rev. Jeanne Tyler who is a former UCCDM Board Member.  Her bio can be found on the former Board of Directors webpage.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.  So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple; the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them.  ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’  Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.  They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.  Then Simon Peter came, following him, and he went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples went back to their homes.”

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.  They said to her, ‘woman, why are you weeping?’  She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’  Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom do you seek?’  Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’  Jesus said to her, ‘Mary’.  She turned  and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’  Jesus said to her , “do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’  Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.'”  (John 20:1-18)

In the early, early morning even before dawn, we discover Mary Magdalene up and walking toward the tomb.  We suspect a new reality is gaining favor, is emerging, is coming to light.  So, it begins in the desolation of death.  Death is the reality we expect.  And so it was with Mary Magdalene. She came alone in the dark barely able to see.  She expected to find the tomb with the stone firmly in place.  I mean that is what dead is.  She came to the tomb in the dark and discovered the stone had been removed from the tomb.  The stone was not where it was supposed to be.  She cannot imagine an open tomb.  She worried that someone had taken the dead body of Jesus and disposed of it; making even more of a mockery of Jesus.  This would end even more the promises of Jesus.  There would be no comfort and life would continue in its dreary dark never changing way.  The present dead would remain as the past.  And, the future was unchangeable.

Someone calls her name.  Someone she does not recognize.  “Mary” is spoken and heard and recognized.  As a person with a hearing loss even with two hearing aids I can hear a sound and not recognize the word spoken.  Someone knows her.  I do not think Mary was hearing impaired but I do believe she was in shock or amazement that anyone in that tomb knew her name.  Someone calls her name, “Mary”, and at this moment she recognizes by the voice, her friend Jesus, the Crucified and Risen Lord!

The past becomes sweet, the present secure and the future hopeful.  It is Easter Sunday.  Hallelujah!!!   Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  The horrific experiences and fears of death are vanquished by the voice of the one who calls Mary from fear to joy, from resignation to recognition, from silence to courage, from alone in the tomb to community with brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.  She went and told the others “I have seen the Lord”

This Easter story gives me courage.  It begins with Mary stumbling in the dark toward death not her own death but toward the dead body of Jesus who gave her and the others hope and meaning and fulfillment.  It includes tears and bewilderment and helplessness.  In the midst of this is a voice that calls her name and she recognizes his voice.  It gives her all the courage she needs,  all the hope she needs, all the love she needs, all the authorization she needs to proclaim, “I have seen the Lord”.  May it also be so with you!

Prayer:  Though we stumble and don’t always hear your first call to us yet you call us again and we recognize the voice of one who loves us.  Filled with gratitude we respond with courage and hope and perseverance for a church that is inclusive.  Amen.

Caught In The Middle

This is the Holy Saturday entry, the eleventh, in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2016 series.  This devotional reflection comes from Rev. Nancy Erickson.  Her bio can be found on the Board of Directors page.

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[a] of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”[b]66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone. Matthew 27: 57-66

In the calendar of the church year, this is Holy Saturday.  Jesus is in the tomb.  We don’t do a lot with this day in the Church.  We don’t build worship services around it.  We don’t sing hymns about it.  But, we do live it.  For those who followed Jesus today is a day of deep sadness.  It is a day of loss.  It is a day when hope has been turned to despair — a day when our deepest fears have come to fruition.  Because today, Jesus is dead and the resurrection has not yet come.  So it is a day in the middle.  Caught in the middle waiting.  As someone with a significant disability I know about waiting.  Those of us who live with disabilities wait for diagnosis, wait for assistance, wait for laws and policies to change, wait for the bus with the lift to come by.  Our lives are filled with waiting.  Anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one, the pronouncement of a terminal illness, loss of job or income, or any other devastating blow, also understands what Holy Saturday is about.  What was is no more and what will be is not yet clear or known.  It feels as if there is nowhere to go and nothing to do.  The Holy Saturdays of our lives last a lot longer than one day.  So what does one do?

This is where the actions of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary have something to say to us. We read here that they were there sitting across from the tomb.  I imagine that they were sitting in silence, remembering, wondering, waiting, hoping. Maybe that is what faithfulness looks like on Holy Saturday.  There is not much to do except be present to the reality of what is. Holy Saturday is a difficult day.  We so desperately want to be relieved of the pain.  The two women of Holy Saturday will become the first people Jesus greets on Easter Sunday.  So trust the silence and the waiting.  The time for action will come.  But for now be still.  Remember, wonder, hope.  Pray.  It is Holy Saturday and the God who loves you is at work.

God of death and life, give us the patience and courage to trust you in the times of sorrow as well as the times of joy.  May we be still and know that you are God.  And may we trust that death always transforms into new life.  Amen.

The Power of Paradox

For Good Friday, we post the tenth entry in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2016 series written by Kelly Tobin. Ms. Tobin is a mother and a disability advocate who lives in Denver. She occasionally takes to the stage to share her story as an individual born with anomalies affecting all four limbs. Kelly also lives with the sequelae of a Traumatic Brain Injury.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Cor 12:9 – 10; NIV)

At the height of my life of thievery, at age 42, I stole a junior-sized hospital gown. I recognized a startling comfort as I eyed it and stuffed it stealthily into my duffel bag. Not only did it sport my favorite colors, but it fit my petite body just right. Fifteen surgeries in, it was about time! On this particular occasion, I’d undergone my fourth amputation. Such procedures had always involved elements of trauma and “unbearable” pain. Somehow, that gown spoke otherwise.

Heading into surgeries, we hold in view the desired outcome. God doesn’t always give us a reason for our suffering, however. We all come to know a Good Friday of our own, or several of them — days or years dominated by physical pain or perhaps iterations of betrayal,  blame, public humiliation, fear, loneliness, abandonment, loss, grief, utter brokenness. Even our anger and hatred eat away not at our enemies’ well-being, but ultimately our own. Where do we turn? To what can we cling? What’s “good” about Good Friday, the day that Christ feels his Father turn away and Jesus comes to know ultimate betrayal? Herein we begin to discover the Gospel’s paradox of weakness and strength, a truth as perplexing as it is comforting.

While God may not give us a reason for our sufferings, he has given us a reason for his suffering. Not only can we identify with his struggles, but perhaps more importantly, we can know that he identifies with ours.  Hold in view that he chose to live as a man, to suffer profoundly in body and in spirit. Can we release demands for explanations for our suffering and instead breathe into God’s response delivered in a person?  In Christ, after all, God endows us with that which we crave most deeply– companionship, a loving presence, full understanding of the depth of our hearts.

When we unite our suffering with that of Jesus, our own suffering becomes engendered with hope, pregnant with expectation.  When we feel victimized and helpless, Jesus’ own story can nudge us back toward comfort, connection, trust, and hope. God contains us as we wrestle with Him. And as we learn to receive this grace and comfort, life springs forth from death. Our figurative crucifixion becomes imbued with the meaning and hope of a consistent, sacrificial love.

“Why did I steal that hospital gown?,” I ask myself 5 years post-theft. I discover, as I hold it, that it represents to me the me who I’ve come to know and treasure through suffering, the multi-dimensional me who has stopped looking for linear responses and logical answers. We benefit from focusing not on the concrete, but on the subtle process of growth by which we slowly learn to give and receive love.  Step with me into a mystery solved not by an end, but by the means of a sacrificial love.

Prayer:  Heavenly Lord made flesh, comfort us with your love perfected, a love that we do not fully know on this earth. When darkness and betrayal close in, grant assurance that you’ve not abandoned us. Strengthen us in our suffering so that we may embrace death, and in doing so, that we may come closer to knowing the power of our own resurrections in yours.