Disability Ministries Committee logo using  stylized person standing and another seated in wheelchair whose arms form the horizontal arm of the cross between them.  Logo says Making the Rough Places Smooth - Removing Barriers Is. 40_4
Summer 2019         
Vol. 9, #1
Pastor seated in pew wearing black robe and long purple stole next to his Golden retriever guide dog wearing a purple liturgical scarf as collar
Accessibility Audit item #52 - Qualified service animals are welcome! Photo courtesy of  Rev. Dr. Eric Pridmore


of the

United Methodist

 Disability Connection

Greetings in Christ! 

After a very long year of limited committee finances and of family concerns for a number of us, we are delighted to be back with you again.  We are so grateful that United Methodist Women has stepped up to provide a small monthly stipend and that the Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries has graciously provided a third grant out of their limited funds to enable us to keep moving forward.  

In the meantime our work has continued and will persist in the future! We launched the long-awaited Annual Church Accessibility Audit "badge" scoring system so that you can determine how your church measures up and be recognized for efforts made.  See the first article below for more details, and consult our website to see how you can participate!

The purpose of the badge system is to identify and celebrate churches that make a commitment to being accessible and disability-friendly.  The second article highlights one large church that added a worship service for families whose needs were not being met by typical services.  The third article gives you some tips and resources on ways a congregation can become Deaf-friendly.  All of us can select one area of ministry at at time that can be made more inclusive.  Watch for other ideas in the newsletters to follow!

Thanks so much for your patience during this difficult year, and for your ongoing support!  

Lynn Swedberg, Editor  
In This Issue
* Disability-Friendly and Accessible Badge Program
* Reflections on The Feast
* Deaf-Friendly Worship Services
* Resources
* Upcoming Events
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                            Announcing the Disabililty-Friendly                              and Accessible Church Badge Program
Wesley UMC in Georgetown, Pennsylvania and  Moran UMC in Spokane, Washington, are the first two churches awarded the Disability-Friendly and Accessible Gold badge for their work on creating an inclusive space where people with and without disabilities  worship and serve together. The recognition is based on their scores on the revised Annual Accessibility Audit for United Methodist Churches. These congregations have been 
On a gold circle the words Disability-Friendly and Accessible surround the stylized standing person and person seated in a wheelchair whos arms form the horizontal bar of the cross in the DMC logo. The word Gold is below the logo
Gold level badge
helping the DisAbility Ministries Committee of the UMC ( DMC) pilot the audit revision, scoring and implementation process. By next Annual Conference season a hundred or more congregations should have this designation - will your church be one?  Consider the badges to be like blue ribbons at the fair - any church that meets the criteria receives one.  You are competing only with your own church!

The revised audits and information about the Disability-Friendly and Accessible badge program were sent to every US annual conference this spring. We hope that many conferences will adopt the program and will find it useful. For instance, results provide a more objective way to select host churches for district and conference events. The tool helps local churches prioritize next steps as they work to become barrier-free. 
Some audit items are based on meeting the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act,
A woman in a blue blazer stands next to a woman in a pink sweater and floral dress who is holding the gold badge certificate. Annual conference decor is in the background
Rev. Becky Collison from Wesley UMC receives the gold badge award from Bishop Peggy Johnson
but others reflect best practice in hospitality toward current members as they age, guests who may or may not have a disability or a family member with a disability, and community neighbors who use services within the building. Many items are not costly, e.g. listing accessibility measures on the church website (check out the extensive listing on the Wesley site), or providing companions or "buddies" for children or adults who need a little extra support to navigate worship or church school. More low-cost suggestions are found in the new handout " Ideas for Becoming Intentionally Disability-Friendly on a Tight Budget."

Bronze and silver badges are granted based on the scored annual accessibility audit. Gold badge items include having a barrier-free chancel and automatic door opener or the equivalent. Bonus gold points are earned for extra measures taken to meet needs of the congregation and community. Gold status is conferred after a review by someone designated by your conference disability committee or the DMC. Churches that meet the badge criteria and commit to continuing to improve their accessibility and welcome can upload their badge for use on the church website. Door decals will be available soon. 

Male bearded pastor wearing white robe_ red stole_ and wooden cross stands next to Lynn in black sweater and deaconess scarf handing certificate to two men
Moran UMC pastor and representatives accepting the award
Per The Book of Discipline (Paragraph 2533.6), church trustees shall conduct an annual accessibility audit of church facilities, drawing on others in the congregation to assist them. The annual trustees Charge Conference report asks whether or not the audit has been carried out.  We are excited that the General Council on Finance and Administration has adopted the DMC audit, and posted it on their website under Local Church Forms. For more information check the Accessibility Audit page on the DMC website or contact us at the committee e-mail address.
Reflections on The Feast Worship Service
Rev. Ramsey Patton serves as associate pastor at Highland Park UMC in Dallas, Texas, where she is privileged to pastor The Feast, a worship service with and by (not for) the persons with disabilities and their families. The service seeks to offer welcoming worship that is especially geared towards persons with intellectual disabilities who are often excluded and marginalized. In sharing her experience Pastor 
Pastor in jeans and stole with women in purple choir T-shirts standing next to communion elements on altar table
Pastor Ramsey leading worship
Ramsey hopes to encourage faith communities which may be striving to create more intentionally inclusive worship.
In the spring of 2014, Pastor Ramsey felt deeply convicted by the Holy Spirit to start The Feast, a worship service with the disability community. Highland Park UMC had (and continues to have) a vibrant disability ministry but no worship component. She partnered with staff music associate Terrie Preskitt-Brown, who created the Kingdom Singers, an all-inclusive choir that leads the music every Sunday.

They started the service in June 2014 as a monthly worship service but transitioned to a weekly service in January 2015. Originally a Sunday afternoon service, The Feast now is one of many Sunday morning worship service options at Highland Park. The roughly forty-minute service largely follows the same format and song choices every week. The spirit of the service is captured in the opening affirmation: "Here at The Feast, we rejoice in the Lord. We are all God's children, loved and precious in God's sight." Pastor Ramsey offers a five-minute reflection, usually part of a larger series such as "Journey with Mark," "Lessons from John Wesley," and "The Armor of God." Celebrating Holy Communion every Sunday helps demonstrate God's love and grace for all.

One male and three female choir members in purple T-shirts lead singing and signing
The Kingdom Singers
Pastor Ramsey strives to empower and equip any individual from the community who would like to help lead the service. Thirty minutes before the service, participants gather for a rehearsal. Persons who are reading scripture or offering a prayer may practice during this time.  Assignments are made for collecting the offering and and helping serve communion. The rehearsal ends with sharing prayer requests and prayer. Members with disabilities also greet before the service, pass out bulletins, and help lead the music.
Through God's grace, the fruitfulness of The Feast is abundant. Typically around sixty individuals attend each Sunday. They have had one adult baptism and fourteen new members have joined. A core group of congregants are present faithfully every Sunday. Consistently new visitors who have heard about the service through word of mouth attend and return. The level of ownership of the service by the participants demonstrates growth in discipleship. Constance, who helps lead the communion liturgy each week, has memorized her part of the liturgy. Max, who is non-verbal, uses a wheelchair, and has very little upper-body mobility, motions enthusiastically each week to serve communion. John offers a homily four times a year. Austin prays for the choir and leaders before each service. Moreover, a strong sense of community has formed among
View from the back of rows of persons seated in folding chairs while the choir in purple T-shirts are in the front of the worship space. Arched windows in exit doors help transform the room into a worship space
Participants and Kingdom Singers during worship
the congregation. Congregants regularly interact before the service and stay afterwards to visit. Many friendships have developed.

The father of one of the choir members captures his family's experience at The Feast in this way: "We've been back [to Highland Park UMC] about a year and a half after not being able to attend church much at all for many years due to Margaret's inability to sit still and act right in church. At The Feast, where there aren't really any rules about how you dress or that you have to sit perfectly still and not say anything, Margaret can be herself and my wife Jeanne and I can just be there and enjoy the worship and fellowship without worrying. The Feast makes it possible for us to come to worship, and it gives us access to a great community we wouldn't otherwise be a part of."

The Feast is a community of inclusion, empowerment, love, and joy! Pastors from throughout the nation (and as far away as Tajikistan) have visited The Feast to learn more about inclusive worship and starting a service in their local churches. If you sense the Holy Spirit prompting you to start an inclusive worship service in your church, Pastor Ramsey prays that you obey! God is faithful and will provide. And may God's Kingdom reign here on earth as it does in heaven.

Article and photos contributed by Rev. Ramsey Patton, an ordained elder in the North Texas Conference of the UMC. For more information contact her by e-mail.

Deaf-Friendly Worship Services
Practicing hospitality and welcoming people to worship are a part of the Wesleyan way of reaching out and building growing congregations, and this is especially true when it comes to including Deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and Deaf-blind individuals and their families. As part of this issue's focus on providing tools to help congregations become
logo of two hands_ one with thumb up and the other thumb down_ making touching circles with thumbs and  index fingers - ASL for interpreting
Logo for ASL interpreting
more disability-friendly and accessible, the United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries (DHM - a committee of Global Ministries) offers the following case study, tips, and resources.

A Case Study 

First UMC in Fredericksburg, Virginia, wasn't looking to begin a Deaf ministry in 2002. It was just one of those times when Deaf people showed up wanting to worship. The Deaf couple, who had been members of St. Matthews UMC of Bowie, Maryland, had just moved to an active retirement community. While there was a successful Baptist Deaf church in Fredericksburg, the couple insisted that they wished to stay faithful to their United Methodist roots, especially because the wife was a "PK" or pastor's kid.

The staff at First UMC didn't hesitate - they went beyond just accommodating by arranging to have a sign language interpreter for worship services, promoting the Deaf ministry, teaching a sign language class, and reserving a seating area for the couple. Close seating was important since the husband was Deafblind, having minimal useful vision and hearing. The Deaf couple chose to attend the contemporary worship service and sit near the band and worship team so they could feel the bass and drums.

The couple participated for fifteen years before moving to an assisted living facility. While this was a small Deaf ministry, it was a way to personify one church's commitment to welcoming Deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and Deafblind people.

Interpreter in grey suit uses both hands and her facial expression to convey a concept. Pastor preaches from large white podium hung with red liturgical symbols on a banner
Interpreter at Lovers Lane UMC, Dallas                      Photo courtesy of Paul Jeffrey
Quick Tips

1. If you have an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, be sure to promote it on your outside sign, in your bulletin, and on your church's website.
2. Teach the Lord's Prayer in sign language. You can use the UMC's ASL Glossary video and repeat it on four or more Sundays. 
3. Include the ASL manual alphabet on the back of the bulletin.
4. Do not dim the lights all the way, as Deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and Deafblind people still need visual access e.g., for seeing the interpreter, for lip reading, and for reading the bulletin.
5. Learn some and use some worship-related signs e.g. from this video on YouTube
6. Teach greeters, ushers, and the pastor to sign "good morning" to both Deaf and hearing people. 
7. Have a children's or youth choir sign a hymn or a song. This YouTube channel has several examples.
8. Include a short faith-based or Bible drama for visual input. Perhaps act out a scene from a scripture passage while a narrator signs. Verses do not have to be signed by the actors, as long as their gesturing and acting are clear. The Good Samaritan story is an easy drama to do.
9. Increase your use of other visuals throughout the service, such as multimedia presentations.
10. Use a sound system with a microphone and offer an assisted listening system and devices which will assist hard of hearing and late-deafened people who rely on audio to have full inclusion
11. Have a few large-print bulletins and inserts on hand for Deafblind individuals, as not all Deafblind persons are fully blind.
12. If you do not have an interpreter, offer a copy of the sermon and any worship notes, which will also be appreciated by hard of hearing persons who do not use ASL. Do not panic if a Deaf person comes out of the blue. Just be friendly, welcoming, and hospitable.

Need Congregational Resources?

The book, Deaf Ministry: A Comprehensive Overview of Ministry Models, 3rd Edition, by Blue book cover with back photo of congregants in pews Leo Yates, Jr., is a guide for churches who wish to implement a new ministry or expand an existing one.

Download the following and more from the Resources page
 of the DHM website:
  • Brief Guide to Beginning a Deaf Ministry
  • A Brief Guide to Sign Language Interpreting
  • Brief Guide to Assisted Listening Devices or Systems
  • Brief Guide: Ministry with Hard of Hearing and Late-Deafened People
  • Brief Guide to Hospitality for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Visitors
  • Brief Guide to Deafblind Interpreting
Consult the ASL Glossary  (a joint collaboration of UM Communications, the DHM, and Global Ministries).

2019 is the time to have churches become more Deaf-friendly and welcoming for Deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and Deafblind people and their families! 

Submitted by the Rev. Leo Yates, Jr., a deacon serving in the Baltimore-Washington Conference. He is consultant to the United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries and serves on the DisAbility Ministries Committee. Contact Leo at this e-mail address with questions or consulting needs.
The Annual Accessibility Audit for United Methodist Churches is intended to be a starting point for congregations to study not only their building but also their practices.  If the audit seems overwhelming, try checking out just the Bronze level items the first year. If you have a large campus, start with one building and work from there.  

Other early steps in becoming intentionally accessible and disability-friendly might include:

Conduct a Congregational Survey to determine how well your church is meeting the needs of members and visitors with disabilities, and their family members.  Use the results to help decide where to start!

Plan and implement a Disability Awareness Sunday. See Resources on the DMC website. Hint: holding this service (per Paragraph 265.4 of the UM Book of Discipline 2016) is one Bronze level item on the Annual Accessibility Audit! 

Consult your jurisdictional representatives on the DMC - find out who they are by writing to our new committee information e-mail address.

Upcoming Events
August 16-18, 2019                                                                  Manila, The Philippines
National Consultation on the Inclusion of Disability in the Life and Ministries of the UMC in The Philippines
Sponsored by several teams from the California-Pacific Conference, this event is planned to help churches learn to better serve people with disabilities and to support clergy and church leaders who have disabilities. Information sessions and small group discussions will feature local experts.

August 23- 24, 2019                                                                 San Antonio, TX
Pathways to Hope 4th Annual Conference -  Moving toward mental wellness: Body, Mind, Spirit, Community.
A free event for the San Antonio area community held at Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. Our own Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder of Mental Health Ministries is one of the conference keynote speakers!  The focus is on building partnerships with the faith community to reduce stigma and bring hope. For more information or to register go to the Pathways to Hope website.  

September 21, 2019                                                                   Atlanta, GA
Deaf Ministry Boot Camp
Sponsored by the UM Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries at  Mount Pisgah UMC in Johns Creek, GA. Time: 10am to 2pm.  Learn basic ASL phrases, ministry ideas, Red letters on a white background_ Underneath the words Deaf Ministry is an offset box with the words Boot Camp in bold_ looking like they have been stamped ways to improve communication access, ways to begin a Deaf ministry, and more!  To register or learn more see the Eventbrite site for this event. 
Thanks for your interest in these ministries, and for making a difference in your own congregations or workplaces.  Please let us know what is happening in your area!  And please remember to update your subscriber information with any changes so we don't lose track of you!  We value every subscriber!
DisAbility Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church