A Moment for Mission
"I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" —Psalm 27:13-14, NRSV
Retired Global Ministries missionary Joyce Hill loves the mission spirit of her congregation, St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Asheville, North Carolina. Since 1975, the Cartwright Class has embraced developmentally disabled adults.
"As a group," Hill said, "they explore spiritual growth, relationships, self-worth and community."
But they are important to the total life of the church.
"Members of the class," Hill noted, "participate fully in the worship service as acolytes and assistants during the celebration of Holy Communion. Occasionally, they share their voices by singing the anthem. They share joy and devotion with the rest of us in the congregation."
Disability Awareness Sunday happens every week at St. Paul's UMC. The annual special Sunday is an opportunity for congregations to celebrate the gifts and graces of people with disabilities and to encourage their full inclusion. According to The Book of Discipline (Paragraph 265.4), "if the annual conference so directs, an offering may be received to promote the creation of architectural and attitudinal accessibility in local churches."
Look around your congregation. Do you see individuals who simply attend worship but might love to play a bigger role in the church's life? What can you do to include them? Start a Sunday school class? Invite them to join the choir? Train them as greeters and ushers?
Every church—big or small—can find ways to involve all God's children, and Disability Awareness Sunday is a perfect time to start.
Loving God, grant us strength and courage to welcome all of your children. Open our hearts, minds and doors to each person who wants to know you. In your name, we pray. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Second Sunday in Lent — God of our salvation, you have claimed us as citizens of heaven; but we know that often our lives have looked no different from anyone else's, our minds too often locked on earthly things. May the gifts we bring to your altar this morning be symbolic of our desire to let go of all that doesn't reflect who we are and whose we are. May we be more faithful witnesses, knowing that we are on a journey to our homeland, an eternity with you. In the redeemer's name, we pray. Amen. (Philippians 3:17-4:1)
In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul recognizes the diversity and unity of the body of Christ. This recognition presents a challenge to the contemporary church as it seeks to be in ministry with, and on behalf of, people with disabilities. Here are some guidelines for congregations and pastors to consider:
Invite people with disabilities to participate as liturgists, preachers, ushers, acolytes and Communion servers.
Develop an awareness of metaphoric language in preaching, liturgy and hymns.
Use multiple cues in worship services.
Develop an awareness of the forms and amount of physical movement involved in worship.
Establish a system of worship assistants.
Reflect on the sacramental practices of your faith community.
Consider how the pastor preaches about disability.
Speak loudly and clearly.
Provide bulletins and worship resources with enlarged type.
Participate in Disability Awareness Sunday.
When your congregation celebrates Disability Awareness Sunday, share—and try—some of these suggestions. Your church will be richer when you do. Thank you!
—Adapted from "How Can Worship Services Be More Welcoming of People with Disabilities?" by Discipleship Ministries