1. In the Spotlight: Basham United Methodist Church
2. New Director of Disability Ministries for the Northeast District
3. GBOD Approves a New Advanced Lay Speaker (Lay Servant) Course on Disability Ministries, “No Child of God Left Behind”
4. North Alabama Conference Disability Ministries on Facebook
5. Newsletter Reminder for Pastors and Local Church Chairs of Disability Ministries
6. New Connections Event at Merrimack Hall
7. Charge Conference Time – Accessibility Audits Should be Completed
8. Startling New Statistics Released by the Department of Commerce
9. Southeast District to have Seminar on “Disability Ministries Role in the Church”
10. We Want Your Church to be in the Spotlight
11. Our Vision and Mission
Located on Danville road in Morgan County is a small membership church that does not let size get in the way when it comes to serving the Lord. Basham United Methodist Church, led by pastor, Tom Elder, believes that Christianity is to be lived out in our day to day lives in the communities in which we live. One member put it this way, “It is one thing to pray for the hungry on Sunday morning, but something else to actually go and feed someone on Monday.”
My grandmother used to call this “putting legs on our prayers.” While I hope this is what every church in our conference does, it is refreshing to see not only a small membership church, but a congregation in an older church building, recognize that there were improvements that should be made in order to make their building more accessible to those with mobility impairments. As your North Alabama Conference Convener of Disability Ministries, I have heard too many older church congregations say that their church buildings are just too old for anything to be done. While this may very well be true in some cases, the reality is that there is usually something that can be done if one is willing to use a little imagination.
When I learned that Basham was going to remodel and expand their upstairs bathroom to make it accessible, I was thrilled (especially since my family and I are now members of this wonderful congregation). I admit I was totally surprised when Pastor Elder informed me that the downstairs bathroom would also be remodeled and made accessible. In the pictures below, please note two things in particular: (1) note the grab bars positioning – you need two grab bars for a wheelchair accessible bathroom – one on the wall behind the toilet and one on the wall next to the toilet (if you need exact dimensions please contact your District Director of Disability Ministries); and, (2) the sink (our Audit and ADA regulations say the pipes under the sink are to be insulated and I have had some people tell me, “There is no need for our pipes to be insulated. Our water never freezes.” This is not the purpose of the insulation. The pipes must be insulated so that a person in a wheelchair who pulls up to wash his/her hands will not accidentally burn his/her legs on the pipes. Notice that Basham did insulate the pipes and then chose to cover the area in a decorative way as well.)
The main thing to remember when making a bathroom accessible is to keep it accessible. I have seen churches go to great lengths and expense to build accessible bathrooms only to fill them with changing tables, chairs and potted plants. The result? No room for a person in a wheelchair to adequately maneuver around the room! Basham made certain that both restrooms had adequate turn around space for a wheelchair by having me “try them out.” In the upstairs bathroom, a rug had to be removed because it would catch on the tires of my chair and wad up so that I could not properly move. A smaller rug in the downstairs accessible restroom did not pose a problem. With the matter of appropriate space settled, the bathroom could then be decorated as desired making sure not to have any item extend past given guidelines. Below is an example of one item that was able to be fitted perfectly into the upstairs accessible bathroom. You will note that it not only added beauty but is also functional as it holds extra bathroom tissue and paper towels. Sandi Elder, wife of Bro. Tom, did the decorating of the restrooms.
One final thing, I want to mention that our church did was to add an attractive fence around the sidewalk that people who cannot climb the stairs to get downstairs use to access our Sunday School classes and Fellowship Hall. This fence is more than beautiful; it is functional. It is an extra safety feature for people who use a wheelchair because it is on the side of the sidewalk that has a small drop off. This is a feature that is often overlooked but as someone who has taken a tumble at another church who did not have a proper ramp in place or such a safety feature in place, I can tell you from experience, it is a welcome site to anyone who views it from where I sit!
On Sunday, September 16th, Basham had a Disability Awareness Sunday with the Rev. Dr. Eric Pridmore of the Mississippi Conference as our guest speaker. Eric presented not only a powerful message for adults but also a wonderful children’s message using his guide dog, Atlas. At the church’s Charge Conference on Sunday, October 21st, they will elect their first local church Chair of Disability Ministries. Hopefully, early in 2013, Basham will be able to apply for Bridge Builder status! I would like to thank my new church family for the many ways their hearts, minds and doors were open to my family and me when we first visited them and for the continued way the congregation works to further open their hearts, minds and doors to all of God’s children!
Forgot the contact information for your District Director of Disability Ministries?
No problem! Just access the link below or go to our portion of the conference website www.northalabamaumc.org/pages/detail/1741
Many of you are aware that my family and I are now members of a church in the Northwest district. So, for the first time since re-districting, I am no longer going to serve as the Northeast Director of Disability Ministries. However, as your North Alabama Confernece Convener, I will still be available and very active in the conference and the district! I am very pleased, however, to announce a wonderful person is taking over the “reins.” I am confident that you are being placed in the capable hands of a person with a loving heart and passion for working with and for people with disabilities. It is my privilege to introduce Mrs. Rhonda Ritter as the new North East District Director of Disability Ministries.
Rhonda has been married to Kirk Ritter for 32 years and they have no children. They have been members of Huntsville First United Methodist Church for 31 years. I first met Rhonda when I was invited to attend their Chapel Service which is especially designed for those with disabilities or needing a shorter service. Rhonda participates in this each weekly and is loved by all who attend and worship in the Chapel Service. Northeast District clergy and laity needing information regarding Disability Ministries or to apply for a R.A.M.P. grant or Bridge Builder status may contact Rhonda at:
(Home) (256 )883-5443
(Cell) (256) 603-600
Many of you are on Facebook and we want you to “like” our page! We welcome discussion on our page related to Disability Ministries. If you have questions or needs, please feel free to comment on the page. If you read about a related article, workshop, book, etc. please feel free to comment or post the information. We really want this page to grow and be a presence on the web/Facebook for North Alabama. Our Conference leads the denomination in Disability Ministries in many ways, but when it comes to membership and discussion on Facebook, we are really lagging behind. I know we have more people who surf the web and like to talk than the 14 current members we have, so please join us! We especially encourage every pastor and local church chair of Disability Ministries to join. Any person who cares about those with disabilities and has access to Facebook, should “like” our page. Can we count on you?
At the 2011 Annual Conference, we passed on Consent Agenda the request that all pastors and local church chairs of Disability Ministries sign up to receive this Disability Ministries Newsletter as soon as possible. It has been over a year now and several still have not signed up to receive it. Please pastors, encourage your fellow ministers to do so by sharing this newsletter with them! Anyone who has a friend who would enjoy receiving our newsletter, please share the following link with them and encourage them to subscribe! Remember: “friends who care, share”!
If you are an adult with physical or developmental disabilities, you will enjoy this masquerade themed event! (Adults without physical or developmental disabilities are also welcome to attend.) Come dressed in your favorite costume ready to dance, play games, and take pictures in their picture booth! RSVP by calling Kristen Wilson at 256.534.6455 or emailing email@example.com by Thursday, October 31, 2012. All the fun will be on Friday, November 2nd!
Even though the picture is a little blurry, you can still see that Somerville United Methodist member, Jenny Edwards, and her friend, Samantha Busby are enjoying themselves with Justin Williman of the Food Netwook at a recent Connections Event. Jenny and Samantha were able to get free tickets thanks to our partnership/connection with Merrimack Hall! We’re so glad that they had a wonderful evening!
The Department of Commerce has released its Annual Disability Statistics Compendium for 2011. In this lengthy report, the Commerce Department states many facts based on the year 2010. For years now, I have been using the percentage of “20%” when speaking at workshops, preaching Disability Awareness Sunday sermons, speaking from the floor at Annual Conferences, or anywhere I needed to make a point as how many people were living in the United States with disabilities. While it is true, I have also stated in recent years that this number was growing, I must admit that I had no idea how much or how fast it would grow! According to this report, the number of people with disabilities in the United States in 2010, ages 18 and up (notice it doesn’t include those below the age of 18 even, nor does it include those living in institutions) living in the community was 22.7% of the population or 53,273,399. Even more startling then this to me and I hope to you, was the numbers stated for Alabama. The percentage of people with disabilities in 2010 living in the community, ages 18 and up (again, it did not include those below the ages of 18 or those living in institutions) was 28.6% of the population of 1,012,704!
I cannot explain to you why Alabama’s percentage of people with disabilities (ages 18 and up) is so much higher than the national average. The fact I can tell you is this: statistical data proves that well over half of this number (up to 53%) are not in our churches! If we are truly seeking to save the lost; to reach out to others; to spread the good news; to evangelize – here is our opportunity! The question is not just a matter of evangelism either because it also encompasses all areas of justice ministries. 30.5% of people with disabilities in Alabama in 2010 were living in poverty; 70.1% of the working age population had a job in 2010 in Alabama compared to 27.6% of those with disabilities who were working age; African-American and American Indian/Alaska native persons report the highest rate of disability, at 24.3% for each group (per the U.S. Census 2000); women have are more likely to be disabled than men (CDC, 2008 – women 27.3 million compared to men at 23.3 million with disabilities in the USA); etc.
The question for all Christians in the North Alabama Conference after reading these new figures is simple: what are we going to do about the 536,733 people with disabilities (2010 figure, I know it is higher now) living in Alabama over the age of 18 who are not in church? How are we going to reach out to them? The second question is: how are we going to be in ministry to and ministry with those with disabilities who are in our churches? Do we recognize the fact that we are all differently abled and that many people with disabilities have great talents and gifts of ministry that add much to the life of our churches or do we close our hearts, minds and doors?
At the 2012 North Alabama Annual Conference, we passed by Consent Agenda that in 2012-2013 workshops/seminars would be held in each district to provide training in accordance with paragraph 630.1d of the Discipline for pastors in the area ofDisabilityawareness and ministry. This training would be done by the North Alabama Conference's Disability Ministries Team. The workshop/seminar would also be for local church chairs ofDisabilityministries. Pastors who attend an entire seminar will have a certificate placed in their district office folders showing they have fulfilled the disciplinary requirement. Any pastor in the Northeast or Northwest Districts who missed the seminars in their districts and would like to come to the one in the Southeast district are invited to do so. Anyone from any district is invited to attend.
We are still looking for men, women and youth who are willing to help others. If you or a group from your church is willing to volunteer one Saturday to help build a ramp for a church or a person with disabilities in your area, please let your District Director ofDisabilityMinistries know. We are willing to accept help on a one time basis or to have teams who would be willing to help every two or three months if needed. If we all work together, so much can be done to make our churches accessible for people with disabilities to be able to enter to worship! By working together we can help make people’s homes accessible where they can more easily enter and exit them via a ramp. We know how much of Jesus’ earthly ministry was devoted to people with disabilities, so we are following His example when we minister to these precious children of His!
If you need a ramp built due to a disability, contact your local church pastor today. If your church needs a ramp, accessible bathroom, chair lift or elevator and cannot afford to pay the total cost contact your District Director to apply for a grant from R.A.M.P.
To be a part of helping others and making a difference in the kingdom by joining the Accessible Habitat Team, contact your District Director of Disability Ministries today!
We’d love to share your stories to inspire others!
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 November/December edition. Information for this edition should be sent to the appropriate District Director no later than November 20, 2012.
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 is 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.