Disability Ministries will be an active part of each local church’s ministry. Local churches will recognize that Jesus, Himself, set the example of Disability Ministry in His earthly ministry. Realizing that more than 20% of the population are people with disabilities, will be a motivating factor for these churches.
The Conference Disability Ministry team sees its mission as making a difference in the world as disciples of Jesus Christ reaching out and ministering to people with disabilities. We believe that our Mission holds with the Annual Conference’s priorities of Leadership for 21st Century and of Empowering a New Generation of believers.
In our efforts to better follow the example of Jesus, we want to make sure that our United Methodist members in North Alabama with disabilities know that they are welcome at Annual Conference. The Annual Conference planning team is working with the Conference Disability Ministries Team to offer accommodations when possible. These include accessible parking, a sign language interpreter, hearing assistance devices, and extra-large print handouts.
If you, or a visitor attending Annual Conference with you need accommodations please indicate your special needs through the online reservations form at www.northalabamaumc.org/ac12reservations.
During Conference, the Conference Disability Ministries team will also have a help booth near the Registration Team on the first floor of Norton Center. For more information contact North Alabama Conference Disability Ministries Team Convener Deb Wade at (256) 778-7783 or email@example.com
Huntsville FUMC has been involved in the area of Disability Ministries for some time. Recently, Deb Wade, North Alabama Conference Convener for Disability Ministries was invited to attend their unique Chapel Service. The following is a firsthand account of her visit.
Minister of Discipleship, Rev. Sallie Collwick, weekly puts Huntsville First’s belief of “Believing, Belonging and Becoming” into practice as she leads the Chapel Service. According to their website, the Chapel Service is “an abbreviated worship service that offers fun singing and an uplifting message for those with special needs or who otherwise prefer a shorter worship service. Everyone is invited to be a part of this truly unique worship experience.” I found that this to be true but to truly understand why it is so “uplifting” and “unique,” one has to experience it for himself. The first thing a visitor will notice upon entering the Chapel is its simple eloquence. As worshippers gather in to the Chapel, the second thing a visitor will notice is their enthusiasm and warmness of their greetings to one another and visitors as well. The love the worshippers have for Sister Sallie is very evident. I kept being reminded of the Scripture, “God is Love,” and how Love was, indeed, present in this service.
Do not let the description that this is “an abbreviated worship service” fool you. While it is true that it only lasts 30 minutes, so much fun, singing and depth of message are included that you will not feel that you have missed anything that may be included in a traditional hour long service. Rhonda Ritter, Special Ministries Coordinator, asked the congregation who would like to play a tambourine or other musical instrument she had in her box. She assured them that everyone who wanted to play one would be able to do so. After passing out a variety of tambourines, music stix, maracas, etc. the music began. I wish that the service had been recorded! Words cannot describe adequately the wonderful blessing of the Spirit when these people of varying abilities began to sing, shout and play their instruments! Surely, God, Himself, was smiling at the sights and sounds!
After singing several songs, I was asked to say a few words to the worshippers. I used my money illustration to show that we are all people of value to God, regardless of the “shape” we’re in – even though some may look at people such as I, who use a wheelchair and call us, “broken,” God does not! Whether we are straight and new; wadded up or all dirty and muddy, God loves us! To help them remember how important each person is to God and how much He loves them, my husband passed out dollar bills to each person in attendance. Amazingly, many of these people gave their dollar back when the offering plate was passed because they wanted “God to have it.”
Rev. Collwick, “Sister Sallie,” then began her message. While her message may have been shorter than those heard in a traditional service, it did not matter. The substance of her message was powerful and uplifting. She has a gift in communicating with the entire group so that each person – regardless of ability – could understand her message. When one considers the average attention span of most humans, it is my opinion that her message was just perfect.
After the message, my husband and I were invited to share in a Fellowship Lunch with the worshippers. Before eating, each person was given a card with “Go Pray” on it and I Thessalonians 5:16-18 was read. While the food was delicious, the time to talk with the attendees and get to know them was even better. I asked each person, “What does this Chapel Service mean to you? What do you like best?” Following is a summary of the responses I received:
- Rachel Hallmark, daughter of Rev. Coy Hallmark, was the first person to really attend the Chapel Service. Rachel is a beautiful and charming young lady who happens to have Cerebral Palsy. When Sister Susie asked Rachel about what she would like to happen (in regards to the Chapel Service), Rachel told her, “I want my friends to come.” So, they began to pray for this to happen. The result? The Chapel Service I just described! What is Rachel’s favorite part of the service? She enjoys the singing most of all.
- John Wade, a regular participant in the Chapel Service, stole my heart, mainly because of my son, Jon Wade, who died in 1997. John loves to talk and I doubt he ever meets a stranger! It was wonderful to hear him tell about his love for the Chapel Service, Sister Sallie and all the FUMC Volunteers who help with it. His favorite part of the service is when they sing “The Doxology.” How appropriate! His favorite part is singing, “Praise God from Whom ALL Blessings Flow….”
- Paula Terry said that she had more than one favorite part of the Service. She enjoys the Bible reading, Singing and Praising God!
- Sheila Drummond was so excited to tell everyone that she had been shopping! She also shared something that many of us would love to share, that she had lost weight!!! Her excitement was infectious! The favorite part of the Service to her? “Everything!!!!” She concluded by saying, “[we] have a good time.”
- Fannie Lowe, a resident of Ability Plus Group Home, said that her favorite part of the Service was the music and singing. In fact, as if to prove her point, she began to sing for me, “The Old Rugged Cross.” What a blessing!!!!
- Jennifer also took a piece of my heart that day. She told everyone that she was moving and did not know if or when she would be able to return. She told me, “I like Church; it makes me feel good!” She gave me a wonderful hug and said she wished she could see me again. I told her that even if we did not get to see each other again in this life, that we would sit and talk for about 1,000 years in Heaven! She hugged me all the more and I shall never forget the big smile on her face or the sparkle in her eyes.
- The last person’s comments I want to share with you are those of Doris Robinson. Doris said that her favorite part of coming to the Chapel Service was to see Rachel (remember Rachel’s prayer? Doris is an example of how the prayer was answered!) Doris said she was baptized last May and met Sister Sallie when she came to Huntsville FUMC looking for assistance. They met in the Discipleship Program. Doris said that the Chapel Service and Sister Sallie had “helped me [her] figure out who I [she] is and my [her] purpose.” She concluded by saying, “I feel God here. I feel wanted and loved.” What a wonderful testimony!
Several Caregivers were also present from Ability Plus and the ARC as well as some volunteers from HFUMC. My husband and I appreciate Laura Eden, the Coordinator of Special Activities, for the wonderful meal she prepared. We enjoyed meeting Lay Speaker, Mike Christian, who read the Scripture during the Chapel Service and volunteer, Marti Stone. I also would be remiss if I did not mention another lovely participant of the Chapel Service, the Acolyte, Logan Crawford. Logan is Hard of Hearing and reads lips and ASL. She, like everyone I met, made us feel very welcome and very glad we were there!!!
For more information on Huntsville FUMC, visit their website at huntsvillefirst.org or contact Rev. Sallie Collwick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any church with an active Disability Ministries can send their information to their District Director of Disability Ministries. We will then contact you for more information for an article and for pictures. Our next newsletter will be the March/April edition. Information for the March/April edition should be sent to the appropriate District Director no later than May 10, 2012.
Deb Wade - 62 Black Rd., Somerville, AL 35670; (256)778-7783; email@example.com
Conference Spiritual Guide
Celia Vest - 62 Black Rd., Somerville, AL 35670; (256)778-7633; firstname.lastname@example.org
Central District (Co-Chairs)
JoAnne Minnitt - 16276 AL Hwy 91, Hanceville, AL 35077; (256)352-4401; email@example.com
Earlene Johnson - 13455 AL Hwy 91, Hanceville, AL 35077; (256)287-0959
Joyce French - 25 Timothy Trace, Anniston, AL 36207; (256)237-4082; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mountain Lakes District
Rev. Diane Housler - 415 N 32nd ST, Gadsden, AL 35904; (256)295-1365; email@example.com
Deb Wade - 962 Black Rd., Somerville, AL 35670; (256)778-7783; firstname.lastname@example.org
Northwest District (Temporarily)
Celia Vest - 962 Black Rd., Somerville, AL 35670; (256)778-7633; email@example.com
South Central District
Jennifer McCroskey - 3556 Spring Valley Court, Birmingham, AL 35223; (205)298-7706; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Mike Samuels - 726 S. Lafayette ST., Lafayette AL 36862; (334)864-9478; email@example.com
Rev. Wade Langer - 2130 Paul W. Bryant Drive, Suite B, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401; (205)752-0414; firstname.lastname@example.org
Any church who wishes to be awarded Bridge Builder Status prior to the 2012 Annual Conference meeting, must send in an application to Deb Wade prior to May 1st.
Click here to complete the application form online or email your District Director of Disability Ministries and ask for an application form to be sent to you.
Applications for Bridge Builder Status for June 2012-May 31, 2012 will be accepted beginning in July 2012.