Submitted by: Debby Newman, Centennial UMC
Centennial UMC in Roseville recently hosted its first ever Disability Awareness Sunday, where members experienced being in ministry with people with disabilities through worship, a lunch panel, and workshops. From the moment worshippers walked through the door on July 25 to the music, ASL signing, scripture reading, sermon, lunch, and hands-on workshops, “we had an opportunity to experience integration of leadership in many parts of our worship with our sisters and brothers who have disabilities,” said Rev. Brian Hacklander.
Hacklander and Sharon McCart, chair of the national Disability Ministries Committee, debunked myths about disabilities during a dialogue sermon. For instance, when a person has a physical disability, it doesn’t mean they have other disabilities as well. People with disabilities are church leaders, pastors, and missioners, McCart pointed out.
Centennial has a “Flames” small group for people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. Flames members demonstrated that people with intellectual disabilities can participate at church by reading scripture, greeting people, singing, and assisting in the workshops. “Our Flames teens and adults with intellectual disabilities have been in Christian service and held social activities and classes for nine years,” said member Debby Newman, who represents the North Central Jurisdiction on the Disability Ministries Committee. “It was time to expand from Sunday evenings and UMW events to being right in the middle of church activities.”
During lunch, Gail Hoffman of Rosemount UMC shared information about Rosemount’s “Kaleidoscope” inclusion ministries, including the “Carnivale” respite program. Rev. Janine DeLaunay, co-president of the United Methodist Ministers with Disability Association, told stories about challenges she has overcome as a pastor who is blind. Deaconess Shelly Owen of Oklahoma talked about adult ministries for people with intellectual disabilities. The Accessibility Audit, led by Disability Ministries Committee consultant Lynn Swedberg, and Inclusive Music Program by local composer Aaron Gabriel showed possibilities for Centennial and other churches to strive toward.
“We learned how ‘All God’s critters got a place in the choir’...” said Hacklander. “We will continue to raise awareness and work toward full inclusion.”
Centennial's Disability Awareness Sunday events were the culmination of the annual meeting of the Disability Ministries Committee, where members gave a $900 grant to the Lanesboro and Wykoff churches to promote and organize a half-day workshop on being welcoming to all and to highlight respite resources available in Fillmore County.
Debby Newman is a member of Centennial UMC's Reconciling & Welcoming Committee and the leader of its Flames program. She and her daughter Eve also represent the North Central Jurisdiction on the Disability Ministries Committee.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church