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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?
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UCC Disabilities Ministries Seeks Nominations for Board of Directors

The UCC Disabilities Ministries Board’s Nominations Committee is seeking people who are passionate about disability ministry who would like to serve on our Board.  Our Board is made up of people with disabilities, professionals who work in the disability field, and family members of people with disabilities. Our mission is to encourage our denomination to create worship and meeting places, programs and leadership, classes, and activities that are accessible to all (A2A) and welcoming and inclusive of all persons with disabilities.

Some of our short term goals include increasing our voice and presence from the pews to the national planning boards; development of curriculum and programs for people with intellectual disabilities; building the Kreyer Scholarship Fund for students with disabilities who wish to pursue theological education; and increasing our web and social media presence.

Someone interested in serving with us should be someone who is a member of a UCC church, regularly reads, responds to, and is comfortable with using email; can devote a minimum of ten (10) hours a month to this work, which includes a monthly conference call meeting of about 90 minutes to two hours. The Board also meets in person annually, usually over a two day period to set goals and plan for the year; annual meeting is schedule by the Board and recently has been occurring in the fall. A Board term is six (6) years and includes a willingness to make a financial commitment to our disability ministry each year.

Some of the specialized gifts we are seeking this year are:  web and social media development skills, creative, effective fundraising talents, event planning skills, financial skills, writing and editing expertise, and having a Bold Voice. Above all, we welcome all those with a great passion for disability ministry.  In exchange, we offer you an opportunity to learn new skills and experience personal growth and knowledge of the workings of our denomination.

We encourage interested candidates to visit our website at http://www.uccdm.org to learn more about us. Located there are Board updates, our blog, and the application.  We look forward to hearing from you soon! The deadline for nominations is July 31, 2014.

 

UCCDM June 2014 Update

Grace and Peace 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 February 2014.

At the UCCDM Annual Meeting last October, the Board identified three main goals for this year: strengthening relationships, strengthening the A2A (Accessible to All) program, and continuing our ecumenical work.

  • Relationships-The UCCDM Board of Directors continues to work to strengthen our relationships within the UCC. The national setting of the church developed a social media meme for “Inclusivity and Accessibility” as part of the March Fourth for justice campaign. UCCDM engaged March Forth via the UCCDM Facebook page and supporting Special Olympics’ “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign.
  • Relationships-The UCCDM Board of Directors has also been in dialogue with the national setting to encourage disability awareness and perspectives in the many communication of the national setting including columns such as ‘Dear Theo’ and ‘Sermon Seeds’.
  • Relationships-The UCCDM Board has been discussing how we may further engage in the denominational focus on literacy, perhaps highlighting issues specific to learning disabilities.
  • A2A (Accessible to ALL)-The A2A Subcommittee of the Board has received permission to update and revise the A2A resource entitled “Anybody, Everybody, Christ’s Body” and is developing criteria that will guide the redevelopment of this resource.
  • Ecumenical–UCCDM Vice Chair, Rev. Jeanne Tyler represented UCCDM/UCC at the National Council of Churches’ Christian Unity Gathering meeting in Washington D.C. the focus of the meeting was mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline. Rev. Tyler was the only self-identified person with a disability at the meeting and reported that she was able to lift up the issues of mental health and learning disabilities as factors inseparable from the school to prison pipeline.

The UCCDM Board would also like to report that we have completed and/or continue to work on the following projects:

  • UCCDM Lenten Devotional was presented on uccdm.org. UCCDM sought original theological reflections for the Lenten season that would highlight theological issues via the disability/mental health lens.
  • UCCDM transferred the uccdm.org website to a new server to allow for increased security and features. The website has been somewhat reorganized, and content continues to be reevaluated for relevance. A resource section has been added to the website and will continued to be expanded.
  • UCCDM Board has started to make plans for UCCDM presence and involvement at Synod 2015.
  • The Kreyer Scholarship Committee is seeking leadership donations to grow the endowment funds as we seek to raise $34,000 by 2015 so that scholarships may be offered to persons with disability/mental health concerns preparing for authorized ministry.
  • Conversations about the next Widening the Welcome event have begun.
  • The Nominating Sub-Committee is developing the nomination process for the next class of UCCDM Board Members.
  • Board members and members of Conference Inclusion Teams saw that UCCDM and the A2A program had a presence at the Annual Gatherings of the Northern California/Nevada Conference, Rocky Mountain Conference, and the Southern California/Nevada Conference. (If you tabled with UCCDM information at another Conference please let us know.)

The UCCDM continues to partner with the UCC Mental Health Network. The UCCDM Board continues to serve as a resource to individuals, pastors, and congregations seeking information to improve their accessibility and inclusion. Individual UCCDM Board Members as well as individual UCC members continue to encourage local settings and conferences to increase their accessibility to and inclusion of persons with disabilities. We would love to hear about your efforts to include people with disabilities in the life of the church as well as to know what types of support you may need from the national setting.

May Christ’s Peace Abide with You,

Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas, UCCDM Secretary

 

UCCDM Lenten Devotional-EASTER, A Letter to Angel’s Caretaker

This is the eleventh and final entry in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional. This reflection for Easter Sunday comes to us from the Rev. Dallas (Dee) Brauninger. She is a former UCCDM Secretary and Board Member her bio can be found on the Former Board of Directors page. Rev. Dallas (Dee) Brauninger also received the 2013 UCCDM Award.

Easter

Faith reflected in a note to the man in an Iowa prison who socialized Leader Dog Angel for a year:

You did a fine job of socializing Leader Dog Angel.  She and her trainer arrived at my house on Sunday, January 12. I will give it my all to be a good person for her to guide. Angel is my fourth dog guide since 1986. She returns my freedom to get around and have a life filled with doing meaningful things for others.

Thanks for teaching her how to return a thrown ball without a tease. I will see that she balances her lifework of patiently guiding a 70-year-old woman with the joy of play and being a “dog” dog when she is off duty.

I am proud of Angel’s first career of loving and trusting you.  She knows about trust. She gives freely of her love. You must have a wonderful soul to have encouraged these tender qualities. You gave her a solid start in her profession as dog guide — good habits and good behavior. I respect and thank you for the kind, gentle way in which you taught her.

You surely miss her. I wish well for you. I pray that you will continue to choose life-giving ways. I hope that whenever life is tough you can remember this dog who told you clearly that she accepts and trusts you to give her what she needed, no matter what your past chapters. Sometimes we need an angel to remind us to hope. If you were the one who named her, you saw her soul.

Though strangers, you and I share the gift of knowing Angel. She takes the loneliness out of my blindness. Perhaps she also lessened the loneliness of this Lenten time of your incarceration by helping you also to see yourself as a person who can respect and trust yourself. Nothing can separate you from what she gave to you.

I know the plans I have for you, to give you a future with hope. Jeremiah 29

 

UCCDM Lenten Devotional- Silence, Emptiness and Hope

This is the tenth in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional Series. This reflection comes to us from Rev. Alan Johnson, Chair of the UCC Mental Health Network, Ex-Officio Member of UCCDM, and Former UCCDM Board Member. His bio cam be found on the Board of Directors page.

Silence, emptiness and hope are the themes for Holy Saturday

Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24.

The heart of the Christian story is of the three days, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. Good Friday is the suffering and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Holy Saturday is the time of emptiness and silence. Easter Sunday is when God raised Jesus from the dead to new life. The three days make a compendium, a trilogy of the whole Christian story. The death, the silence, and the resurrection, as a totality, make us sing our praise, offer us ways to see the new creation coming into being, and lead the believer to a new way to living in the world.

What is the point of Holy Saturday? Why not just go from the death to the resurrection? Because it reveals the truth of life itself. When I was sunk in depression, when I could not sleep, could not focus, was in a daze, could barely communicate and did not have an appetite for many days, it seemed like life had ended. I felt hopeless. It was an empty time; a void of pleasure; a wasteland. Thank goodness for a good therapist, medication, a supportive partner, my Christian faith and a faith community to which I belonged.

That is why Holy Saturday speaks to my soul. While as post-Easter people, we can barely surmise what it must have been when Jesus’ followers knew that he was dead. Really dead, as the Apostle’s creed says, he was crucified, dead and buried. That was it. It was over. Really was. What was the hope then?

In Lamentations, we read of the experience of being bereft.  “…driven and brought me into darkness without any light…has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago…though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.” This must have something of what those early disciples experienced on that day after Jesus’ crucifixion. The bleakness was real. Scripture tells it like it is. Lost, consumed with darkness, not a spark of light or hope. This has been real for many people, as it had been for me.

The emptiness, the silence, our spirits crushed. Holy Saturday, the day after Jesus’ death, allows meaninglessness and hopelessness to seep into our bones. It confirms this common, universal human experience. Although hope comes in our own hopelessness, for the God in Jesus ultimately will not abandon Jesus into a final death, our faith does not deny the bleakness and the profound loss, emptiness and silence on Holy Saturday. There was nothing more humanity could do. We came to the end of the line, to the end of the rope. It is in Holy Saturday that we live in silence.

Susan Palo Cherwein has written this prose poem, “God is in Silence.”

In the emptiness, God is.

In the darkness, God is.

In the silence, God is.

When the psalmist cried out form the pit,

God was already there.

When we cry out from the deep night,

God is already there.

When the silence is roaring in our minds,

God is there.

For when we are emptied of our paltry projects and goals,

When our grandiose and prideful accomplishments run aground in darkness,

When even our incessant mental chatter ceases in despair,

God is revealed in silence

Whither can we flee from God’s presence?

God is.

In the silence and the emptiness in this second day of the Christian Story, the Holy still resides.  The writer of Lamentations writes, “But this I call to mind.” There is that “Divine BUT.”  “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.”

Even on Holy Saturday when we spiritually journey into that place of gloom and doom, where, if it is not our lot at this time, it is the lot of many people in the world this day, we can remember. We can call to mind that it is with God that there is hope. And even if a person does not have hope, when in the pits, it is still God who shows up in unexpected ways and with surprising people to keep rekindling the fires of faith and hope. We know that God is the One who keeps us, holds us, lifts us up, and always provides hope in our hopelessness. Enter into the experience of Holy Saturday acknowledging that the emptiness and the silence are part of our human experience, but it is never the last word. That last word comes tomorrow.

“God is in Silence” from Crossing: Meditations for Worship by Susan Palo Cherwien–Copyright © 2003 Birnamwood Publications (ASCAP) A division of MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc., St. Louis, MO. Used by permission.

UCCDM Lenten Devotional-Reflection for Good Friday

This is the ninth in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional Series for 2014. This reflections comes from Rev. Peggy Davis Dunn, UCCDM Board Member and former Chair. Her bio can be found on the Board of Directors page.

Good Friday

I am poured out like water, and all my bones have fallen apart; my heart is like wax; it melts inside of me; my strength is dried up like a piece of broken pottery. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you’ve set me down in the dirt of death. Psalm 22: 14-15 CEB

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. John 1:5 CEB

I write this reflection sitting on a couch in a room in the Walter Reed Military Hospital in Bethesda MD. About six feet away from me lies a grandson whose body was broken in a horrific car accident about 6 weeks ago. We are here this week to be with him and to give his mom some companionship and respite as she accompanies him on his journey back from the days when he was given a 5% chance of survival. His trauma has involved having both arms and both legs broken, broken ribs with internal injuries, extensive facial damage including the loss of an eye and some hopefully temporary brain injury. Parts of his body which are whole have been drawn from to repair parts of his body which are broken. His rehabilitation has involved 21 surgeries so far, and this journey will likely go on for about a year. His body will not be the same as it was before his accident.

His pain has been great and his body has been broken. His life path has been altered in a split second. The words of Psalm 22 above are apt.

But daily we see him return to the land of the living. He gains strength and capacity. He moves more steps forward than back.

Good Friday is the day when Christians reflect on the suffering of Christ on a cross outside of Jerusalem, on the willingness of Jesus to endure the suffering of crucifixion. The suffering of Christ then, and the suffering of this grandson now, are very real. But suffering is not the last word, then or now.  Suffering itself is not redemptive, on Jesus’ part, or anyone else’s. What is redemptive is the Spirit that sustains in the experience of the suffering. And the Light which shines in the Darkness even when we cannot see it. We believe, in the words of John’s gospel, that the darkness of our lives cannot extinguish the light, tho the darkness be very real, and very dark. The light is found in the darkness. In our various ways, we hold that faith.

 

UCCDM Lenten Devotional-Who Do You Say That I Am?

This is the eighth in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2014 series. This devotional reflection comes from Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas, UCCDM Secretary. Her bio cam be found on the Board of Directors page.

Maundy Thursday

Genesis 12 ; Gospel of John 13, 18

It occurs to me that Sarai, the wife of the patriarch Abram, has something in common with Jesus. Both had their identities betrayed by someone they loved and trusted.

Earlier in this Lenten season we found ourselves confronted by the call of God to Abram to leave Ur, when we follow that narrative to Genesis 12 we find Abram and Sarai called again to leave for a new land. This time they are traveling from Haran into Egypt. Verses 10-20 are often left out of the lectionary which stops at verse 14. It’s almost as if the lectionary is trying to avoid the issue of true identity as it is fully raised in the text. You see, in the narrative Abram asks Sarai to pretend to be his sister rather than his wife. Thus, Sarai briefly becomes one of the wives of Pharaoh. When Pharaoh discovers this he returns Sarai to Abram and sends them on their way.

We don’t hear Sarai’s thoughts on these events. We can imagine what a wife might say to a spouse who asked her to pretend to be a sibling rather than a spouse. But that is not in the text. What is in the text is that Sarai’s husband had to the power to change her identity, to say who she was. Furthermore, we see that Abram’s redefinition of Sarai’s identity leads her to yet another identity completely.

It is Maundy Thursday, Jesus has gathered with the disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover feast, to wash their feet, to proclaim that his body and life are given for them (and us), and to proclaim his coming betrayal. The text tells us that it is as Jesus does these things that the decision is made in Judas’ heart to betray the Master. Jesus even tells Judas to go and do what must be done. Judas, one of the twelve disciples, one of Jesus’ trusted friends is the one who betrays him. It is Judas who must decide who he thinks Jesus is, and then based on that decision Judas will collude with the powers that be. It is Judas who will signal Jesus’ identity with a kiss in the garden.

In both these texts the issue of personal identity are the key issues. In both of these texts someone else decides whom the other is and takes action that will radically alter the both the life of the other, the life of one deciding who the other is, and the unfolding of history.

As a woman with disabilities, many of which are hidden, I know what it is like to have others decide who I am. I know what it is like to be “in the closet” of disability, to have relationships in which there is little knowledge of my disability, and the emotions others show when I let my full identity be known. I know what it is to be vulnerable with others to let them know the depths of my experience and have to trust that they will know with whom and when to share that knowledge. I know what it is like to feel that trust betrayed. To watch at the annual school-house parent night as your parent outs you sharing with the teachers about your disabilities in front of classmates and other teachers. I know what it is like in the workplace when co-workers sense there is something different about you, but not knowing what it is decide they will name it–and name it wrongly. I know what it is like when others redefine your identity such that it disrupts and utterly re-routes your own sense of self. With disability it is not so much identity politics as it is identity of individuality/self that is intertwined with the experience of living in a body so different from the norm that the very world around you is rife with barriers that disable. Life with disability is asking each individual you encounter, in some way–who do you say that I am?

Loving God, You who know me better than I know myself. You who created me to be fearlessly and wonderfully made. Help me to know myself, to share myself, and delight in the friends I break bread with. Empower me to raise my face even when others define me in ways that threaten my identity or life. Grant me Your strength and love, to always know myself, and to do Your will. Amen.