Dear Members and Friends of the Southwest Conference:
I bring you greetings in the name in the name of our Still Speaking God. I invite you and your congregation to take some time in discerning how differently-abled members and friends are welcomed into your church. Providing radical hospitality and an extravagant welcome can make others feel more than just a body in a pew, but a human being that is an important part of your congregational family.
In November 2018, I was blessed with the opportunity to represent our conference at the Widening the Welcome National Gathering in Niagara Falls, New York. One of the workshops that I was fortunate enough to attend was presented by a 25 year old woman with an intellectual different ability. In her workshop entitled, “Am I Welcome”, participants were encouraged to think about the steps that need to be taken in their home congregations as they work together to become welcoming and inclusive of their differently-abled members and friends.
As your church begins to explore how your congregation can be inclusive of your differently-abled members and friends, I encourage you to take part in a collaborative dialog as you wrestle with these challenging questions. Here are the questions from the workshop:
1) What makes a church welcoming for members and friends who are differently-abled?
2) What turns people with different abilities away from God and the Church?
3) Does your church participate in crucial conversations about what works and what does not work in its effort to be welcoming and inclusive of people with different-abilities?
4) There are four stages where each church can decide cooperatively which of the four stages they find themselves in and can work together as they try not only to reach the next stage but also work to change the original language to be more inclusive of our differently-abled members and friends.
Does your church ignore the differently-abled members and friends?
Does your church throw the differently-abled member or friend a pity party?
Does your church want to help the differently-abled members and friends but don’t know how?
Does your church make an effort to build friends and relationships with your differently-abled members and friends?
As a people of faith and moral conscious, we are called to make a welcoming and inclusive community of faith for all of God’s differently-abled and beloved children. I hope you’ll accept this invitation to take part in its creation.
If you and your congregation are interested in learning more, I invite you to contact me directly at 623-570-5656 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I available to walk with and guide you and your church through an accessibility audit, lead study groups, assist with church publications, and I am excited to lead worship and preach on Sunday mornings throughout the Southwest Conference.
Your Partner on the Journey,
Southwest Conference United Church of Christ
Lay Minister for Disability Education, Advocacy, and Awareness