Today I got word that I have been invited (or is elected the word?) to join the Board of the United Church of Christ’s Disability Ministry! Something like this has been on my mind for a few years now so when I was approached and asked if I would be interested my response was “ABSOLUTELY!!” I’d been waiting for it. Now all that being said, I don’t have all the details on this new position, yet.
Nonetheless, I am excited to further the work of inclusion and access for people with disability within the UCC and to work with the UCC Mental Illness Network. I have been working with some of these folks on the Widening the Welcome 2, disability ministry conference planning team this year, so I know I will be working with some wonderful people! So excited!
Since presenting a workshop on Accessibility to All (A2A) at Southern California Nevada Conference of the UCC Annual Gathering two weeks ago, I have been thinking about how to differentiate and express the specific inclusion needs of people with disability as distinct from “Open and Affirming” (ONA). I have been thinking this because I spoke with a pastor at AG who did not see the need to become A2A because the congregation was ONA. It is clear to me how these are not the same and how one does not equal the other. There may be similarities in dismantling the social stigmas faced by GLBTQI people and people with disabilities but they can not be approached in the same way–I mean you don’t have to create curb or pew cuts to open yourselves to GLBTQI folks into your church, and you may need to do that to welcome people with disabilities. Also often times GLBTQI come to church looking to be accepted as part of the “norm,” whereas this is neither always a possibility or desire of people with disabilities and mental illness so the move to inclusion and accessibility is more nuanced than mere welcome and affirmation–it may mean helping the congregation interact with someone whose mental illness or disability may manifest as in a socially awkward or even anti-social way. I see ONA as a step, but it’s not all the way to A2A. I look forward to pondering how to more clearly convey these distinctions to my wider church community, and learning from the other members of this board!
Did I mention I also started a second ministry position with hospice this week? Oy vey! I’ll be needing to update the bio soon! First a nap!