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).
This is the third entry in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2015. This reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent comes to us from Ms.Danielle Rochford who is a current board member of UCCDM. Her bio can be found on the Board of Directors page.
17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.
17:2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.”
17:3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,
17:4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
17:5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
17:6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.
17:7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
17:15 God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.
17:16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
Genesis 17:1-7 15-16 NRSV
When God spoke to Abraham he wasn’t just offering another covenant as a sign of his love; yes God was offering assistance, providing an accommodation to an infertile couple, but there is more to this story than what meets the eye. God was offering a covenant to a couple who, back then and still today, would be categorized as having a disability. What God was really saying when offering the covenant was “Hey, I care for you and have your back.”
As congregants we are familiar with certain covenants. It is a simple, but important, statement that reminds us we are all human, we all have strengths we all have weaknesses, we are all different but we are all welcomed where we worship. Covenants are used as a way to understand that someone will have our backs; we make them in committees, we ask ministers to make covenants when being commissioned, and we use them as a set of guidelines to start a relationship with a fellow congregant we sometimes have almost nothing else in common with. No matter how different each covenant is in language the message is the same “Hey, I have your back can you have mine?”
In the fashion of being formed in the likeness of God I come from a congregation that has utilized covenant to provide a safe space for those with developmental disabilities. As someone with Asperger Syndrome, a syndrome that resides on the autistic spectrum, what seems like a simple social interaction such as small chat becomes complex for me and sometimes overwhelming. While others keep up speedy conversations with ease I have to remember to wait for natural pauses to speak, to keep up with a conversation when I am still processing what was said five minutes ago, and interpretation. Constantly remembering not to flinch when someone in the coffee line accidentally touches me is hard and the question “How has your week been” offers challenges in my navigation of appropriate small chat interactions.
I often find myself thinking “Why am I the only one who finds this challenging? How can others adapt so easily to these interactions? Can someone have my back please as I feel like I’m drowning in these murky waters!” Covenants are formed to help us all on these journeys. Every member of a congregation, from the staff to the security guy who works evenings to the congregants. We form covenants for formal projects and initiatives, for community building, but what about a covenant that supports individuals who dance to their own drummer through no fault of their own. It started out small for me; an unspoken agreement with the associate minister and I to listen to each other with open minds and open hearts, for both of us to give constructive feedback, and me realize I am not just in this by myself but she was willing on working to understand me. She may be retired now but our covenant has gone “viral” and spoken or not others see it and realize that it is what makes our congregation different and welcoming.
Let’s form these living covenants and know that we are all in relation to each other. My covenant that started with one radically liberal minister has grown to include a staff member who checks in with me every Sunday and offers direct feedback but knows that sometimes we both have to work on understanding each other. The congregants who intentionally start conversations with me to work on my small chat skills, the elderly congregant who loves to hug but allowed me space to get used to being touched, and those who recognize what an autistic meltdown looks like and will offer to find me a quiet space to calm down in. It’s a covenant that didn’t exist when I went through the process of becoming a member at my current congregation, nor when anyone else goes through their own processes of membership, but it has evolved overtime because we are all here on this journey together. It does not require advance knowledge of the other person, a congregational study in disabilities, or an official document declaring these covenants. It doesn’t always have to require even an official statement from church staff saying “this needs to happen”.
I am intrinsically drawn to religion, called to provide ministry, and at the same time I often exclaim that I find my sanctuary in my church family; the covenant that has been created allows me to find a non-judgmental space where I am welcomed in as I am. I am reminded, on occasion, that no matter how hard I try to “pass” as non-disabled for anyone on the outside looking in there are signs that I, and others, sometimes struggle with. The covenant that exists has allowed me not to be anxious when I enter my house of worship and take part in church life be it attending the annual Chicken and Biscuit Dinner each fall or, to be even more daring, going to other member’s house for a Saturday brunch without needing assistance. As I have grown up to feel more comfortable by myself, an introvert out of necessity, even I sometimes crave social interaction and acceptance.
On this second Sunday of Lent I send out a call asking each of us to consider what covenants we have in our lives. I then ask to consider what covenants can be formed with others with our own personal struggles. It is time to acknowledge that we are created in the likeness of God and through that have the ability to form covenants with others that show our own understanding and love for each other.
This is the second entry in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2015. This reflection for Ash Wednesday comes to us from Mr. Robert Kates an M.Div. student at Brite Divinity School.
But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
~Matthew 6:6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
I have prayed to my Mother/Father, God, many times behind my closed door. First, over twenty-five years ago when I felt that door slam in my face with the reality of HIV/AIDS and now these past seven years having developed polymyositis, a disease that affects all the muscles of the body. For that door opens onto a staircase leading down to the first floor. There are 14 steps.
However doors do have door knobs, God has shown them to me. They can be opened and walked through, even though now I may require a walker. And that staircase beyond my door must be descended cautiously, and climbed passionately. Yet still God has shown me nothing is impossible, nothing is forever, everything has possibilities even when they seem ultimately futile. There is always hope or another way to achieve things.
The door that slammed in my face twenty-five years ago has miraculously turned into a chronic disease, no longer an ultimate death certificate, and not to become the last door in my life with which to deal.
The door opening onto my exterior staircase going down those fourteen, very scary steps, may eventually be replaced by a door leading onto a ground level sidewalk with no steps, maybe perhaps an easy sloping ramp.
God has shown me my abilities by rewarding me with the knowledge to take care of myself. How to turn the door knobs in life. God has given me back my life, my dignity, to take control of my life once again and live it to its fullest. Abling me to transcend many doors, and descend and ascend many staircases.
For there are doors for everyone to heal behind and then venture out from. Doors are of benefit, meant for privacy and intimacy, but never for exclusion.
Right before Christmas, this year, I had a relapse of my polymyositis. I was in the middle of fall, final exams at seminary. I fell and could not walk for three days. Today I can, but carefully. This is encouraging considering I graduate this spring from seminary and hope to be ordained in two years, before I turn 65.
Perhaps God still wants me to keep walking out that door to the staircase, to use those steps as daily exercise so as to forestall my disease, perhaps negate it. Perhaps God keeps challenging me, because once I am ordained, my concern will be with other people’s challenges. I hope always to have doors to pass through, and pray behind.
This is the first entry in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2015 series. This reflection for Ash Wednesday comes to us from Rev. Jeanne Tyler, Co-Chair of UCCDM Board of Directors. Her bio can be found on the Board of Directors page.
2 ¹ Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
2 a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
nor will be again after them
in ages to come.
¹²Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the Lord, your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
16 gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation;
assemble the aged;
gather the children,
even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her canopy.
17 Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
and do not make your heritage a mockery,
a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”
~Joel 22:1-2 12-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
I like Ash Wednesday. I like being marked with the sign of a cross in ashes on my forehead. I feel placed in community as an equal to all those alongside me. We hear ancient words like “Blow the Trumpet”, “gather the people”, “listen”, and “rend your hearts and not your garments”. It seems strange to write about hearing the words when I struggle to hear.
I like being in line with others in front and in back of me waiting to be marked with the sign of the cross. I feel placed in community as an equal to those in front and those in back. We wait patiently expectantly for the time will come. It seems strange to write about walking as though it is a given when I experience trouble with balance.
I like hearing the word “repent”. It means to change. I discover in the Book of Joel, God is repenting along with humanity. For the prophet Joel it is the people that are called to repent. It is the community that is called to repent. And it is also God who repents of the anger that if activated could destroy creation. Joel’s take is why would God place the divine reputation to the test?
When I read the Prophet Joel, I am reminded of the community to which I belong is the source of my being. The community is powerful enough to place me as an equal among others. This is truly a blessing for I experience alienation from myself and from others.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent which is a journey that the community takes together. The journey changes us. Repentance for persons with disability may mean giving up passivity in light of the disability and taking on activism on behalf of the self and others. It may mean claiming gifts that come alongside the disability. It may mean an acknowledgement that the community needs the wholeness and holiness we include to be whole and holy in and of herself as church. Repentance may mean for persons who are temporarily able bodied and able mindful to be attentive to and committed to the inclusion of all gifts of all people. This makes the church whole and holy. The journey means all these things and more but surely these are essential to the journey that is Lent.
UCC Disability Ministries Seeks Lenten Reflections
Last year the UCC Disabilities Ministries Board posted Lenten reflections to their website. These reflections were based on the Lenten lectionary and were provided for Ash Wednesday, Sundays in Lent, and Maundy Thursday-Easter Sunday. These reflections offered views of the biblical texts through the lens of disability and provided new and/or alternate ways to preach, teach, reflect upon or pray over familiar passages of the Bible. These reflections were written by people with disabilities or people with significant knowledge of persons with disabilities.
As Lent approaches, we wish to once again provide these resources to assist pastors and parishioners, church leaders and pastoral caregivers in their Lenten studies, preaching, work, and caregiving. We invite those who wish to write similar reflections this year to choose a date below and submit your reflection to: firstname.lastname@example.org by the deadlines listed.
Note that all submissions must address the text through a lens of disability to be considered. Thank you in advance for your submission.
The UCC Disabilities Ministries Board
Publishing, Identity, and Communications Committee
Instructions for the Reflection:
Must be based on Lenten Lectionary
Maximum number of words: 900
Quotations of others’ work is not permitted
Format: word doc, Google doc, email text
Authors will not receive compensation for their reflections
Authors will be notified if selected
Dates and deadlines for reflections and submissions
Ash Wednesday Feb 18
Submission due Feb 12
First Sunday of Lent Feb 22
Submission due Feb 12
Second Sunday of Lent Mar 1
Submission due Feb 19
Third Sunday in Lent Mar 8
Submission due Feb 26
Fourth Sunday in Lent Mar 15
Submission due Mar 5
Fifth Sunday in Lent Mar 22
Submission due Mar 12
Palm Sunday Mar 29
Submission due Mar 19
Maundy Thursday Apr 2
Submission due Mar 19
Good Friday Apr 3
Submission due Mar 19
Holy Saturday Apr 4
Submission due Mar 19
Easter Sunday Apr 5
Submission due Mar 19
Easter Monday Apr 6
Submission due Mar 19
The UCC is a theologically diverse denomination. This article is posted for consideration and reflection. Articles may not reflect the opinion of the full Disabilities Ministries Board. We invite lively discussion.
This reflection comes from Rev. Anthony Sullivan, member of the UCCDM Board of Directors.
In recent weeks, the world has seen firsthand how the American justice system treats Black people as if they don’t matter. Grand juries in Hamilton County, Ohio, St. Louis, Missouri and Staten Island, New York each decided that the deaths of Black men were not worth further investigation by declining to call for a trial of the police officers that killed them. Worldwide media has exploded with the shocking, horrifying images and videos of local law enforcement’s response or lack thereof over these deaths, and the African American community’s peaceful and sometimes violent protests since those fatal confrontations. Conversations equating these events with Black of Black crime while negating the realities of institutional racism, white supremacy, white privilege and posttraumatic slave syndrome have run rampant.
· Community and church members wear black· Churches hold special altar calls for young men and boys where leaders would pray for God’s covering over “their souls, their lives, their families and their destinies”· People be encouraged to buy from black-owned businesses during the holiday season
· Providing technical assistance to help congregations and other settings of the church start and build their capacity and programs;· Offering training in the use of the United Church of Christ’s comprehensive HIV/AIDS curriculum, Affirming Persons, Saving Lives, as well as other HIV/AIDS educational resources;· Giving leadership for education and information on public policy concerns; and· Prioritizing its work to bring critical presence to those most affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States and throughout the world
· In 2010, men accounted for 70% of the estimated new HIV infections among all Blacks. The estimated rate of new HIV infection for Black men was seven times as high as that of white men, twice that of Latino men and nearly 3 times that of Black women· In 2010, Black men who have sex with men (MSM) represented an estimated 72% of new infections among all Black men, and 36% among all MSM. More new HIV infections occurred among young Black MSM (aged 13–29) than any other age and racial group of MSM· In 2010, Black women accounted for 29% of the estimated new HIV infections among all Blacks. Most (87%) Black women with HIV acquired HIV through heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was 20 times that of white women, and almost 5 times as high as that of Latina women· At some point in their lifetimes, 1 in 16 Black men will be diagnosed with HIV infection, as will 1 in 32 Black women.
In late June 2014, the UCCDM Board of Directors issued a call for self-nominations for the UCCDM Board of Directors. Twenty-three nominations were received. Five persons have been invited to join the current UCCDM Board of Directors. The new UCCDM Directors fills three vacated seats and two new seats to bring representation on the Board to twelve Directors. Three persons from those who self-nominated have been asked to join the Board of Directors for the class of 2015-2021. Another Nomination cycle is not expected until 2017.
A total of eight out of twenty-three nominees were invited to Join the UCCDM Board of Directors. Of the twenty-three nominees: 35% are male and 65% female; 52% are lay persons, 17% are ordained, 13% are commissioned, and 17% declined to state; 4.4% were young adults. Of the eight persons invited to serve on the UCCDM Board 37.5% are male and 62.5% female; 25% ordained; 12.5% commissioned; 50% lay; and 12.5 % declined to state; 12.5% are young adults.
New Board of Director terms will start in November 2014. The 2014-2015 UCCDM Board of Directors will welcome five new Directors. Danielle Rochford of the Vermont Conference and Rev. Anthony Sullivan Jr. of the Illinois Conference will join the Director Class of 2015. Rev. Nancy Erickson of the Nebraska Conference and Minister of Communications Brenda Waleff of the Penn Central Conference will join the Director Class of 2017. Mrs. Rachel Chapman of the Southern California Nevada Conference will join the Director Class of 2019. The addition of these new Directors will alter the composition of the UCCDM Board of Directors for 2014-2015 making the 2014-2015 Board 25% male and 75% female; and 66.6% ordained, 8.3% commissioned, 25% lay persons; and 8.3% young adult.
Three of the current UCCDM Board of Directors will rotate off the Board in October 2015. Persons who self nominated in 2014 have been invited to fill the Board of Directors seats opening in 2015 as follows: Mr. Paul Fogle of the Penn Central Conference will join the Director class of 2019 to even out the Board rotations; Mrs. Terry Martinez of the South Central Conference and Mr. David Ridings of the Nebraska Conference will join the Class of 2021. Danielle Rochford of the Vermont Conference and Rev. Anthony Sullivan Jr. of the Illinois Conference are eligible to extend their service on the UCCDM Board of Directors to the class of 2021. The 2015-2017 UCCDM Board of Directors is projected to be composed of 33.3% male, and 66.7% female; and 41.7% ordained, 8.3% commissioned, 50% lay persons; and 8.3% young adult.
The current UCCDM Board of Directors is eager to welcome the new Director starting in 2014 and 2015. The new Directors will bring to the Board new experiences of disability, including a person with Autism, persons who use power chairs, persons with hidden disabilities, family members of people with developmental disabilities, as well as HIV/AIDS advocates to the Board. The newly named Directors also bring a wealth of skills to the Board including fundraising, communication, inclusive camps, event planning, fiscal management, and web development.
Greetings to those who may be interested to know about 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 June 2014.
For the past year the UCCDM Board of Directors has been focusing on three main goals: strengthening relationships, strengthening the A2A (Accessible to All) program, and continuing our ecumenical work.
- Relationships-The UCCDM Board of Directors has been advocating for some disability ministry recognition at the General Synod 30 scheduled for June 26-30, 2015 in Cleveland. The UCCDM submitted a proposal to present two workshops at the upcoming Synod; both proposals were rejected. The UCCDM plans to host a booth with the United Church of Christ Mental Health Network (UCCMHN) in the exhibit hall at Synod 30. UCCDM has also made plans to sponsor a luncheon at Synod which will highlight the work of UCCDM, celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the ADA, and provide an opportunity for the presentation of the UCCDM Awards. UCCDM Delegates to Synod 30 will be Rev. Craig Modhal, Rev. Susan Burns, Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas, and Dr. Kevin Pettit.
- Relationships-The United Church Board has named a search committee for the next General President and Minister of the United Church of Christ. While a person with disabilities was not named to serve on the search committee, the UCCDM has been invited to submit questions that should be asked of potential candidates.
- Relationships-The UCCDM is partnering with the UCCMHN to plan another Widening the Welcome Conference scheduled for September 24-26, 2015 in Hartford Connecticut. Rev. Susan Burns is the UCCDM Co-Chair of Widening the Welcome 2015 along with Rev. Alan Johnson the UCCMHN Co-Chair for the Widening the Welcome 2015.
- Relationships-In late June 2014 the UCCDM issued a call for self-nominations for the UCCDM Board of Directors. Twenty-three nominations were received. Five persons have been invited to join the UCCDM Board of Directors; this fills three vacated seats and two additional seats to bring the Board to twelve Directors. Three persons from those nominated have been asked to join the Board of Directors for the class of 2015-2021.
- A2A-There had been a desire to make the A2A Resource booklet “Anybody, Everybody, Christ’s Body” more user-friendly. The A2A subcommittee reviewed the resumes of a few persons with the expertise to do this work. The A2A subcommittee interviewed and hired a consultant with disabilities and a PhD in education with a background in both creating inclusive curriculum and disability advocacy to assist the Board with this work.
- Ecumenical- The National Council of Churches has disbanded its Committee on Disabilities. However the persons who had been active in this work have continued to work together and have established the Congregational Accessibility Network. UCCDM Board Director, and UCCDM Vice-Chair, Rev. Jeanne Tyler continues to be an active leader in this work.
- Ecumenical Work-Our World Council of Churches partner, EDAN (Ecumenical Disabilities Advocacy Network) hosted a consultation in the Netherlands on a new theological statement entitled “The Gift of Being” being developed for the World Council of Churches. [EDAN website or EDAN description] It is hoped the document will be completed in Spring 2015. An EDAN bi-annual leadership meeting was held in conjunction with the consultation. Carolyn Thompson, former UCCDM Director, and Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas, UCCDM Secretary, were invited to participate in the EDAN consultation and leadership meeting. Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas has been named the new (volunteer) EDAN North America Coordinator. For more on the meeting in Elspeet see the official WCC news article on the EDA event.
The UCCDM continues to raise money to establish the Kreyer Scholarship to provide modest assistance to level the playing field for people with disabilities or mental health diagnosis preparing for authorized ministry. It is envisioned that the Kreyer Scholarship may be used to purchase assistive devices or technology, pay for academic testing to establish grounds, assist with medication costs, pay for books, assist with tuition, room and board, or other needs faced by persons with disability preparing for the ministry. You are invited and encouraged to contribute to the Kreyer Fund today!
The UCCDM would like to partner with you in your disability ministry efforts. Please let us know what you are doing for accessibility and inclusion.
Yours In Christ,
Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas, UCCDM Secretary