A partner ministry of The General Commission on Religion and Race
Fall 2021    
Volume 11, No. 4
A church with modern stained glass and concrete construction with a concrete ramp replacing part of the stairs and leading to the entrance.
New Ramp in Salto, Uruguay
of the
United Methodist
 Disability Connection

Greetings in Christ! 

Did you know that the Disability Ministries Committee (DMC) receives no general church apportionment support? While we are grateful for in-kind support from our host agency and small gifts from several other UM boards, this is not enough to sustain us.

In this issue we share a snapshot of the impact of our work, and let you know how you can help support our ministries, which are summarized below:

Grants: We believe so strongly in promoting church accessibility that we use nearly all of the money you donate for accessibility and program grants. Past grants have helped fund lifts and elevators, automatic door openers, accessible restrooms, and sensory equipment and toys that enrich children’s play areas. We have provided several grants to Central Conference churches and entities.

Resources: Our website, newsletter, and media posts aim to provide you with the practical information you need to become inclusive congregations. Our resources are grounded in Wesleyan theology and informed by pastors and DMC members with disabilities, offering a unique perspective among disability ministries.

Consultation: From queries about welcoming service animals to requests for workshops, we are available to support UMC members, churches, agencies, and conferences. Some consultation is provided by our volunteers, but you help support reimbursement of their expenses and stipends for our part-time disability and communications consultants.

As noted below, the easiest way to contribute is through our Advance #3021054

Please prayerfully consider a donation this Giving Tuesday, November 30th, or whenever it is most convenient for you. 

Deaconess Lynn Swedberg, editor
DMC Grant Funding

DMC Web Resources

DMC Consultation

How to Support the DMC

DMC Grant Funding = Building a Ramp and Inclusive Ministry in Uruguay
Workers use a jackhammer to demolish steps to make room for the ramp.  Pieces of concrete steps and a small cement mixer are evident.
Because people like you care, the congregation of a little Methodist Church in Salto, Uruguay, was able to build an access ramp into the church. That ramp set the stage for a community of faith to become the inclusive church they believe they are called to be. Your gifts provided a grant to build the ramp.
Some might question what a $600 grant can do. Most DMC grants are seed money, helping get a project started. In this case the funds were enough to cover materials and labor to complete the ramp!
The project started when missionary and co-pastor Veronica Apecena asked her connections from the General Board of Global Ministries for possible sources of help. She was encouraged to apply for a grant through the DMC and did so.
When asked to share a story of how a life was changed by this project, Veronica shared how it impacted one young man. David lives in a group home several blocks from the church. He and some 15-20 of the youth and young adults from that home participate regularly at the church. David required two caregivers to help him up the steep steps into the church. But, after the ramp was installed, David could make his way into the church safely along with all his friends, on his own! The ramp allowed him independence and dignity, things we all want and need.
A smiling man and women lean together with their young son between and embraced by them.  Wooden sanctuary walls and furnishings are in the background.
Older members of the congregation, some of whom initially resisted the project, soon became proud of the ramp. They saw first-hand how it helped so many, including themselves. Pastors Veronica and Fede’s six-year-old son Kin was also able to use his walker to get into and out of the church by himself.
Today, Iglesia Metodista de la Cruz is a witness to the love and inclusive nature of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a very real way. Because this church began to see possibilities, young people like David not only found a place of love and acceptance, but could fully participate, including helping with some of the outreach programs in the neighborhood around the church! Thanks be to God! 

Contributed by Rev. Debbie Hills, DMC Chairperson, Western PA Conference

The 2022 DMC Grant Cycle will open January 15th and close March 31st. If your church has a qualifying project in mind, visit our Grants webpage to learn more and download a 2022 Project Grant Application.

We have an updated version of Funding Resources Available to Local Churches for Accessibility Projects which lists Annual Conferences that provide accessibility grants and other funding ideas and sources.

DMC Resources = Spearheading a Conference Disability Committee and Launching a New Career in West Ohio
Over these past several years, I have relied heavily upon the many wonderful resources of the DMC. I first learned of the DMC and their website and met consultant Lynn Swedberg at a disability conference in Ohio. At that time, I was trying to figure out how best to include and accommodate one little boy in Columbus, Ohio. His family was a vital part of a Korean congregation that our church shared space with. The boy, who is on the autism spectrum, immediately got my attention as he careened past me one Sunday morning to snatch a fistful of donut holes from the hospitality table, nearly toppling over an elderly friend. Over time we set up a sensory break room and buddy system for him, but this was only the beginning.

The next step of my journey began with enrolling in a single course at Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO). During lunch with two staff and faculty members we discovered our common interest in disability and ministry. They invited me to accompany them to the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability in Holland, Michigan. At the Institute I met Debbie Hills, who explained to me how The Book of Discipline requires every conference to have a committee to address disability concerns.

Upon returning to Ohio, I was disappointed to find that there was no conference committee, but the seminary strongly encouraged me to pursue a degree that would equip me to facilitate the development of one. During my time at MTSO, I connected with several individuals who have been instrumental in our newly formed Ohio Disability and Ministry Collaborative, involving representatives from both the East and West Ohio conferences. I am honored to co-chair this committee with Rev. Zachary Holler.  

This past May, I watched myself graduate from MTSO virtually. By now, I’ve lost track of how many papers I’ve written to earn my master’s degree in Practical Theology, specialization in Disability and Ministry, but I know that I couldn’t have done it without the valuable resources at the DMC website.
Standing next to each other at podium are adult son in plaid shirt and glasses next to mother with short dark hair who is pointing to liturgy passage he is reading responsively with her.
Perhaps this is part of the reason why I was invited to join the DMC as their North Central jurisdiction representative. I have enjoyed getting to know committee members and learning much from them about how to approach this work. As an occupational therapist and mother of a young adult son with an intellectual/developmental disability, it is work that is near and dear to my heart.

Looking back on my story and my ongoing connections with the UMC Disability Ministries Committee, I can see how God has been working all things together through the movement of the Holy Spirit. As we press on together, I look forward to seeing what God will do next through the church as the whole body of Christ in and for the whole world. 

Contributed by Mimi Luebbers, West Ohio Conference

West Ohio Conference Disability Awareness Sunday Resources provides scriptures, prayers and litanies, songs, sermon ideas, and videotaped call to worship, music video, messages, and testimony that you can use as is or adapt for your own Disability Awareness Sunday observance.

West Ohio Conference Better Practices Resources is a document offering ideas for improvements that can be made to what your church is already doing, especially for including children who may need a little extra support.
DMC Consultation = Achieving Gold Badge Disability-Friendly and Accessible Church Status in Wisconsin
Lake Street UMC in Eau Claire, Wisconsin Conference, is the latest congregation to achieve their Gold Level Badge as a Disability-Friendly and Accessible Church. Badges are earned based on scores on the Annual Accessibility Audit for United Methodist Churches. When they first completed the form they were disappointed to not score higher. Those results and support from the DMC spurred them into making little changes that were needed to earn their Gold badge in consultation with Disability Consultant and Audit co-author Lynn Swedberg. The church had already done the harder work of adding a lift to the chancel and establishing a community worship service for people who aren't comfortable in Sunday morning worship. They are open to consulting with churches who want to enhance their ministries with people with disabilities, and helping the DMC launch a new Resource Church program.

While some annual conferences such as the Peninsula-Delaware Conference have disability ministries committees that manage the Badge program for their churches, other conferences rely on the services of the DMC. Lynn has worked with congregations in conferences from Alaska to North Carolina while DMC Chair and Audit co-author Debbie Hills has supported churches from Florida to Pennsylvania. Now that many faith communities are again meeting indoors, we hope that Trustees and disability committees will return to the work of improving their congregational accessibility and inclusion. We remain available to help!

Jenn Woytkiw has joined the DMC as a volunteer Resource Person and Badge program coordinator, and is working on developing training resources that will help persons unfamiliar with accessibility to complete the Annual Audit confidently. She also added a pre-badge level to the program - a copper square that signifies that a church is beginning at the foundational level and desires to earn a badge. For more information, complete the Badge Program intake form.
Small square copper badge leads to round bronze, silver, and gold badges, each a little larger. DMC logo is in center surrounded by words disability friendly and accessible. umcdmc.org is below
Your Financial Support = The Disability Ministries Committee Continues to Provide Vital Resources
UMC cross and flame next to The Advance - Advancing hope in Christ's name
The DMC uses The Advance to receive donations. This is an accountable, designated giving arm of The United Methodist Church that ensures that 100% of each gift is used for its intended mission or ministry. 

There are three easy ways to give:

  • Make out a check to "Advance GCFA" and write “UMCDMC Project # 3021054” on the memo line. Mail it to Global Ministries/UMCOR, GPO, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068.

  • Call toll free at 888-252-6174 to donate by phone.
Thanks so much for partnering with us all these years! Some of you have subscribed since the first VOICE issue in 2011. Others have supported us financially and convinced their congregations to do the same. We could not be in ministry without you!


Disability Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church