2011 Annual Meeting
The United Methodist Task Force on Disability Ministries met July 13-16 at Rowan University in Glassboro NJ. As with previous years, members came from many of the jurisdictions within the United States, as well as representatives from four different agencies: the Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries; Methodist Healthcare (South Central) the Southeastern Methodist Agency for Rehabilitation and the Association of Ministers with Disabilities.
The meeting opened with a time of fellowship, where new members could become acquainted and all could renew our acquaintance with each other, as well as renewal of our membership covenant, and sharing some events and developments in our conferences and areas. Tizzy VonTrapp-Walker led Vespers, sharing about her experiences as a hard-of-hearing person.
On the 14th, the meeting opened with a meditation by Russell Ewell based on Romans 12.1-8. He spoke about the value of every person and the need for inclusion in the church. Tim Tice shared about his life as a member of TAG (Totally Awesome Group), which puts on plays and skits. After that, several members shared about events in their conferences. These include increased inclusion at events, interest in the Disability Concerns Workshop, establishing awareness groups, a St. Louis regional awareness worship service, and budget challenges. In business matters, the Task Force refined its committee descriptions.
In the afternoon, Bishop Peggy Johnson spoke with the members. She noted that General Conference would have assistive devices for hearing, suggested strategies for our General Conference petitions and board assignments, noted the role of assistive technology in the lives of people with disabilities, spoke about international concerns, mentioned the value of camps, and asked the group to continue working to break down barriers. She also stated that the 2014 School of Missions would have a study on disabilities.
Tom Hudspeth spoke about a Deaf school in Njia, Kenya and a well project to provide safe water.
After a day of meetings, the group moved to nearby Philadelphia. We first toured Independence National Park, where the guards allowed a blind member to touch the Liberty Bell. We also visited St. George's, the oldest continuing United Methodist church in America. The building is not accessible, but the congregation has devised a plan that, by constructing an historically-sensitive addition, allow anyone to enter the facility in the future. They are currently raising funds for this work. We also ate dinner.
On the 15th, Tim Vermande offered Lauds, based on Isaiah 29.13-19 and Matthew 15.1-9. He spoke about tradition as a source of stability, but also problems. He followed this with a presentation about culture and forces of change. The meeting then broke into committees, formulating plans to contact General Conference delegates and finalizing our petitions, increasing global involvement and working with other organizations, and Disability Ministry certification.
The final day of meeting was July 16. Jackie Burgess opened with song and prayer. We then heard from Dr. Samuel Kabue, head of Ecumenical Disability Advocate Network of the World Council of Churches. He spoke about the history of EDAN, beginning in 1968 with "Faith and Order" and continuing with a 1971 conference. He noted the 1981 United Nations International Year of the Disabled. He noted seven areas of work:
- commonalities shared by all people and differences in all groups
- hermeneutics, how disability is understood and the Bible interpreted
- imago Dei, what it means that we are created in the image of God
- giftedness of each person in various ways, and the need for inclusion
- theology and unity in Jesus Christ, who wants a full life for everyone
- practical matters of community, such as access.
Tom Hudspeth spoke again about the Njia school, providing history and detailing the needs of the region.
As we have usually done, the meeting concluded with Al Herzog leading a service of Communion. His text was 1 Corinthians 13. He spoke of how the Body of Christ is one, and requires the inclusion and participation of all members to be complete. This conclusion to our time together serves to remind us of our mission, and after that, we then began to return to our homes.