Friday, December 6, 2019

News and notes from AMD, 6 December 2019


Here are the highlights of postings this week from the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Disability Ministries Committee, Mental Health Ministries, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Ministries Committee, and UM Congress of the Deaf:
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AMD
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DHM/UMCD
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DMC
-
MHM
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Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several
          disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
This newsletter is also published on the UM Disability Blog
Visit us on the web or Facebook.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Disability Leaders Meet with GCORR


Disability Leaders Meet with GCORR 
By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr. 

Leaders of the DisAbility Ministries Committee (DMC), which is temporarily under the Council of Bishops, and from the caucus, the United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities (UMAMD), met with the executive staff from the General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) on November 18, 2019. The meeting took place at the Bon Secours Retreat & Conference Center outside of Baltimore MD. GCORR met with the organizations’ leaders, some of which are deaconesses and deacons, to learn more about their distinctive work and to deepen the relationship with the disability community. 

At the heart of the meeting was to plan for the DMC’s transition to GCORR, where the DMC will partner with GCORR in the overall work of institutional equity, vital conversations, and intercultural competency. The DMC’s primary focus continues to be on disability ministries, and GCORR and the DMC find these pathways to be integral to the work of both. The meeting provided a bridge for the DMC to begin working with GCORR starting January 1, 2020. 

Bishop Peggy Johnson, the assigned bishop to the DMC from the Council of Bishops, began conversations with Erin Hawkins, the General Secretary of GCORR, at the Special General Conference this past February. Soon after, Rev. Giovanni Arroyo, GCORR’s Assistant General Secretary, continued the conversations with the DMC’s chairperson, Rev. Debbie Hills. 

Everyone at the table heard presentations from the GCORR, the DMC, and the UMAMD, in part, to learn further about one another. This process helped to identify points of intersectionality between all three entities. Rev. Jonathan Campbell and Rev. Hank Jenkins are the co-chairpersons of the UMAMD. Campbell shared that the caucus is developing education and resource materials that focus on ableism. Also present, the Rev. Leo Yates, Jr., a consultant for Global Ministries’ Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries Committee, commended UMAMD for their work toward reducing ableism and said ableism is at the center of deep-seeded biases against people with disabilities. 

With General Conference 2020 being around the corner, the leaders strategized to bring visibility to disability concerns, lobby for disability-related legislation, and support the wider church. Everyone agreed that a disability accessibility coordinator should be present at General Conference 2020, as there was not a coordinator at the Special General Conference in February. There was a consensus that having such a position works to better ensure accessibility, provides support, and helps to resolve barriers for persons with disabilities. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, Bishop Johnson led a brief Communion service, assisted by Rev. Yates, a deacon, to remind those gathered that their work is holy work and glorifies God. It was hoped that Bishop Johnson would continue to be assigned by the Council of Bishops to the DMC at its new home with GCORR.

photo of two rows of people
Back Row from left to right: Rev. Giovanni Arroyo, Rev. Russell Ewell, Rev. Jackson Day, Rev. Jonathan Campbell, and Lynn Swedberg.
Front row from left to right: Erin Hawkins, Bishop Peggy Johnson, Sharon McCart, Rev. Debbie Hills, Rev. Leo Yates, Jr., and Rev. Hank Jenkins.


A dark-skinned woman gesturing with hands while speaking
General Secretary Erin Hawkins commenting about the work of GCORR.



a light-skinned woman with hands folded in prayer
 Bishop Peggy Johnson opening the meeting with prayer.

left, a woman takes notes at a computer, right a man gestures while speaking
 Rev. Giovanni Arroyo welcoming the AMD and DMC members while Sharon McCart (DMC) takes notes. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

News and notes from AMD, 22 November 2019


Here are the highlights of postings this week from the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Disability Ministries Committee, Mental Health Ministries, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Ministries Committee, and UM Congress of the Deaf:

It's time to sign up for health care coverage for next year. This enrollment period is not being advertised, so let your friends and congregation know.
https://www.healthcare.gov/
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AMD
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DHM/UMCD
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DMC
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MHM
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Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several
          disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly (but not next week) by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
This newsletter is also published on the UM Disability Blog
Visit us on the web or Facebook.

Friday, November 15, 2019

News and notes from AMD, 15 November 2019



Here are the highlights of postings this week from the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Disability Ministries Committee, Mental Health Ministries, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Ministries Committee, and UM Congress of the Deaf:
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AMD
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DHM/UMCD
DMC
-
MHM
-
Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several
          disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
This newsletter is also published on the UM Disability Blog
Visit us on the web or Facebook.

Friday, November 8, 2019

News and notes from AMD, 8 November 2019


Here are the highlights of postings this week from the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Disability Ministries Committee, Mental Health Ministries, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Ministries Committee, and UM Congress of the Deaf:
-
AMD
-
DHM/UMCD
-
DMC
-
MHM
-
Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several
          disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
This newsletter is also published on the UM Disability Blog
Visit us on the web or Facebook.

Friday, November 1, 2019

News and notes from AMD, 1 November 2019



Here are the highlights of postings this week from the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Disability Ministries Committee, Mental Health Ministries, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Ministries Committee, and UM Congress of the Deaf:
-
AMD
-
DHM/UMCD
-
DMC
-
MHM
-
Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several
          disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
This newsletter is also published on the UM Disability Blog
Visit us on the web or Facebook.

Friday, October 25, 2019

News and notes from AMD, 25 October 2019


Here are the highlights of postings this week from the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Disability Ministries Committee, Mental Health Ministries, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Ministries Committee, and UM Congress of the Deaf:
-
AMD
-
DHM/UMCD
-
DMC
-
MHM
-
Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several
          disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
This newsletter is also published on the UM Disability Blog
Visit us on the web or Facebook.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Letter to My Other Selves


by Lisa Wirkus

I recently found letters I wrote to my d/Deaf and h/Hearing selves back in 2012 as part of a project someone suggested for me while I was contemplating my changing identities. They still move me, and perhaps they will help someone who reads them.

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Dear d/Deaf self,

I’m not comfortable with you. There are many days when I long to be rid of you entirely. Still, even in the midst of my intense rejection, and even hatred, of you, a still, small voice tells me to be quiet – tells me to just take it all in. But I immediately push that feeling aside because “quiet” is precisely what I am constantly reeling against. Or is it? Maybe silence is really what I detest – a lack of ideas, language, and connection. As I think about it, a “quiet” spirit is my heart’s desire.

Although I am reticent to admit it, your muted reality has given me some new insights. You have helped me to slow down (because I can no longer keep up at the quicker pace,) and you have thrust patience upon me – something I have vehemently resisted. But, alas, with you, deaf self, as part of who I am, patience has become a regular requirement for even the simplest of everyday interactions. Seriously though, I do appreciate the extra patience…and maybe even the occasional reprieves from the impersonal hustle and bustle of everyday business.

On the other hand, missing punchlines to jokes, feeling the need to smile and nod a lot, and being told over and over, “Never mind. I’ll tell you later,” has saddened me. I have lost my sense of control. And I don’t like it! I don’t like having to guess what is going on around me. I don’t like others thinking that I am rude simply because I have not heard their calls. And I resist identifying with you because I am afraid that others will view me as less capable, more concrete in my thinking, or, worst yet, as one with a condition warranting pity.

I long to counter these exterior assaults by claiming my pride as a Deaf person. I see Deaf professionals and Deaf adults thriving, ready and eager to proclaim, “I am proud to be Deaf.” You see, I think deep down, I long for you to become more of who I am, Deaf self. I see the close-knit relationships, I see the mutual understanding, I see the shared worldview, and I see the solidarity which is created from the commonly understood and communally celebrated triumph over oppression.

While I gaze at Deaf culture from the outside, you invite me to see myself as one on the inside: not only deaf, but Deaf, proud of the entirety of my identity, a victor over struggle. At first, this always seems appealing, but then I am jarred by the patronizing tone which seems to be ever-present in my praise. Comments such as, “I can’t believe that you are able to do so well with such a significant disability,” or “It’s amazing what you have accomplished despite your hearing loss” cause me to cringe. I don’t want to be an inspirational story or a charity case. I want others to see me for who I am and what I can do instead of qualifying all success based on a standard lowered to account for my hearing deficit.

As much as I resist allowing you to become my predominant identity, I find myself gravitating toward groups of Deaf people instead of hearing people when I have the choice. I revel in the ease of communication when all around me I see hands flying. I long to really fit into the core of Deaf culture. Deep down, I want to Deaf – to be able to claim an identity based on shared cultural values and experiences, not a label determined by others to put me in a limiting box.

I want to be able to claim you, Deaf self. I want to be comfortable saying, “I am Deaf,” without having to apologize for who I am. But this is not only an internal struggle. Hearing people think that I must be exaggerating my hearing loss because I speak so well or because my eyes happen to catch their unobstructed lips as they begin to talk. Deaf people see me as an outsider. I didn’t grow up deaf, so I missed out on all of those experiences that helped them to form their Deaf identities. Some within the Deaf community view my ability to speak clearly as an automatic exclusion from their group. To them, it doesn’t matter how much I can’t hear. I will always be “THINK-HEARING.” I try to accept that, for it is an accurate description of me, but the accompanying, blatant denial of you, my Deaf self, hurts.

I know the rules. I didn’t have Deaf parents. I didn’t grow up with a hearing loss, and I didn’t learn to sign until my early 20s. Therefore, I will never be admitted into the core of Deaf culture. Deaf self, I just want a place where I can be true to you and unashamed to name your presence within me. I want to know you better. I want to learn more about you. I want to be able to accept you, and just as much, I want others to accept and recognize your presence and importance in my identity.

Truly,
Lisa

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Dear h/Hearing self,

You were my comfortable reality for so long. With you as my center, I felt unlimited – like I could do anything. But now I feel a distance between us. You are still a part of who I am, but not my sole core. Still, I long for you to play a more prominent role in my everyday life. But you just keep telling me that’s not possible.

When I think of you, I conjure up sweet memories of the endless music lessons, indoor drumline, show choir, marching band, wind symphony, crowded parties, my senior oboe recital…my English horn solo in the WVU orchestra’s performance of Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. I remember the soft whisper of my sweetheart the first time he said, “I love you.” I cherish the holy moments in church when music touched my soul in a more profound way than words ever could.

Although you are still a part of me, you’re not as sharp as you used to be. When I think of the sounds I hear now, I envision you as a professional athlete who was once known as a great player, but now as an 85 year old, you have faded into obscurity, relegated to limping around the house and reminiscing about the “good old days.”

As much as I feel disconnected from you because of my audiological deficit, you will always be my “home.” I grew up with you. Everything I learned, everything I experienced, for the first 25 years of my life was experienced through your perspective.
You helped me to learn that people don’t always mean what they say. Tone and inflection are not only important to produce as a musician, but you taught me that vocal tone and inflection can be a window into the hearts and souls of others.

Growing up, I learned best through listening. While you were my only reality, I was able to learn quickly. Being an auditory learner, I was often able to excel without ever needing to pick up a book. I miss the ease of learning that you afforded me – the effortless, never-ending, soundtrack of life that provided so much incidental information.

When I fill out forms, and I am required to check “hearing,” “deaf,” or “hard-of-hearing,” my pen naturally hovers over “hearing” before my ears and brain remind me of my shifting reality. The first time I was finally able to call myself “hard-of-hearing,” I felt like I was betraying you. When I recently described myself as “deaf” in an email requesting interpreters for a conference, I wondered if I was being true to you. By writing that, I didn’t mean to suppress you, but I had to get them to understand my communication needs.

That’s my struggle with you right now. So many parts of you are so familiar. I will always hold dear the worldview you espouse, and I am thankful for my ability to speak clearly and express myself easily to the general public. My problem is that as my hearing self, in many ways, I feel selfish. I can talk, and others can easily understand me, but it is exhausting and frustrating for me to listen to other people speak relying only on my pathetic residual hearing and lipreading ability.

I don’t want to be selfish. I do care what others have to say. It’s just that sometimes I don’t have the capacity or the energy to listen effectively. So, hearing self, how is that fair? How is it fair for others when I am missing or misinterpreting what they say? And how is it fair for me to constantly have to work so hard when other people can even multitask while listening to me?

I already know the answer: It’s not fair. And I haven’t been fair to you either, hearing self. My mathematical, rational brain wants there to be one appropriate label for me, i.e., hearing or deaf. I want it to be simple. Of course, in real life, things are never that simple. I also feel I must apologize to you because as I lose more hearing, as I become more fluent in ASL, and as I feel more comfortable in Deaf culture, I sometimes feel pressure to suppress you. I’m sorry if I succumb to that pressure.

Even if I become completely deaf, you will still be an important part of me. Thank you for continually reminding me of my roots. Please understand, though, that I need to explore my identity as a d/Deaf person. While I do that, I will try my best to not be insulted by others calling me “THINK-HEARING.”

Truly,
Lisa

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Lisa Wirkus is a full-time video relay service interpreter while also serving two churches part-time as an ordained elder in the UMC.


Friday, October 18, 2019

News and notes from AMD, 18 October 2019


Here are the highlights of postings this week from the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Disability Ministries Committee, Mental Health Ministries, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Ministries Committee, and UM Congress of the Deaf:
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AMD
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DHM/UMCD
-
DMC
-
MHM
-
Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several
          disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
This newsletter is also published on the UM Disability Blog
Visit us on the web or Facebook.

Friday, October 11, 2019

News and notes from AMD, 11 October 2019


Here are the highlights of postings this week from the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Disability Ministries Committee, Mental Health Ministries, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Ministries Committee, and UM Congress of the Deaf:
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In Memoriam: Leo Yates, Sr.
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AMD
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DHM/UMCD
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DMC
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MHM
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Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several
          disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
This newsletter is also published on the UM Disability Blog
Visit us on the web or Facebook.

Friday, October 4, 2019

News and notes from AMD, 4 October 2019


Here are the highlights of postings this week from the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Disability Ministries Committee, Mental Health Ministries, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Ministries Committee, and UM Congress of the Deaf:
-
AMD
-
DHM/UMCD
-
DMC
-
MHM
Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several
          disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
This newsletter is also published on the UM Disability Blog
Visit us on the web or Facebook.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

UMC's Disability-Friendly and Accessible Badge Program

Wesley UMC in Georgetown, Delaware, and Moran UMC in Spokane, Washington, are the first two churches to receive the denominational Disability-Friendly and Accessible Gold badge.  Ebenezer and Bethany Mission UMC in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, along with Hillcrest UMC in Fredericksburg, Virginia, are the first to claim a Silver badge.  The badges are given in recognition of each congregation’s work on creating an inclusive space where people with and without disabilities can worship and serve together.  Badge awards are based on a congregation’s scores on the revised Annual Accessibility Audit for United Methodist Churches.  Does your church qualify for a badge?
Peninsula-Delaware Conference Bishop Peggy Johnson and Rev. Becky Collison of Wesley UMC
Peninsula-Delaware Conference Bishop Peggy Johnson awarding Gold badge to Rev. Becky Collison of Wesley UMC

The Disability-Friendly and Accessible Church badge initiative was launched in April by the DisAbility Ministries committee of the UMC. We hope that many annual conferences adopt the program and find it useful. For instance, results provide an objective way of selecting host churches for district and conference events.  Local churches will find the tool helps them prioritize the next steps as they work to become barrier-free.

Some audit items are based on meeting the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but others reflect best practices in hospitality for members, guests, and community groups using the building.  Many items are not costly, e.g. observing an annual Disability Awareness Sunday, listing accessibility measures on the church website, and having companions or “buddies” available for children or adults who need a little extra support to navigate worship or church school.  More low-cost suggestions are found in the new handout “Ideas for Becoming Intentionally Disability-Friendly on a Tight Budget.
Moran UMC's parking lot with three accessible spaces and walkway.
Moran UMC's parking lot illustrates fully accessible parking

Congregations apply for Bronze and Silver badges based on self-report of their Annual Accessibility Audit scores.  Gold badge items include having a barrier-free chancel and automatic door opener.  Bonus gold points are earned based on measures taken to meet specific needs of the congregation and community.  Gold status is conferred after a review by someone designated by your conference disability committee or the DMC.  Churches that meet badge criteria and commit to ongoing accessibility improvements can upload the badge for use on their website and other media.  Door decals are coming soon!

Per The Book of Discipline (Paragraph 2533.6), church trustees shall conduct an annual of their buildings, grounds, and facilities, drawing on others in the congregation to assist them.  The annual trustees Charge Conference report asks whether the audit has been carried out.  The General Council on Finance and Administration has adopted the DMC audit and posted this new version on their website under Local Church Forms.  The brand-new, fully-fillable PDF version that can be used on tablets is also on the GCFA and DMC sites.  Updating your audit in future years will be quick and painless!  For more information check the Accessibility Audit page on the DMC website or write to the committee e-mail address.

Submitted by Deaconess Lynn Swedberg, OTR/L, Disability Consultant, on behalf of the DisAbility Ministries Committee of the UMC. 

AMD at Deacon Gathering


Rev. Hank Jenkins, co-chair of the United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities, delivered a keynote presentation entitled “Ministry Through a Disabled Lens” on Saturday, September 28, at the General Church gathering of United Methodist Deacons. The event was hosted by the Southeastern Jurisdiction Order of Deacons at the Lake Junaluska Conference Center in North Carolina and focused on the theme “Serving with Holy Boldness.”

Rev. Jenkins introduced listeners to the field of disability theology, paying particular attention to what it means to be created in the image of God, the importance of relationships, the vulnerability of humanity, and the idea of a “Disabled God.” In the presentation, Jenkins reviewed the work of disability theologians Thomas Reynolds and Nancy Eiesland and encouraged those in attendance to be more mindful of their inclusion of and attitudes toward people with disabilities.
Hand Jenkins addresses a group

He concluded the talk by offering both practical and attitudinal changes congregations can make to become more accessible, including emphasizing inclusion over programs; ensuring current programs and meetings are accessible; conducting an accessibility audit; training staff, greeters, and volunteers how to directly engage people with disabilities; considering language; and asking about the needs of people with disabilities in their faith community.

Rev. Jenkins’ talk was one of four keynote presentations and a panel discussion that took place over the weekend. Other speakers included deacons Margaret Ann Crain and Martina Efodzi and Bishop Ken Carter of the Florida Annual Conference. Approximately 120 people attended from the various annual conferences of the United States.

Friday, September 27, 2019

News and notes from AMD, 27 September 2019


Here are the highlights of postings this week from the Association of Ministers with Disabilities, Disability Ministries Committee, Mental Health Ministries, Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Ministries Committee, and UM Congress of the Deaf:
-
AMD
-
DHM/UMCD
-
DMC
-
MHM
-
Click here for a list of events of interest to people in disability ministry.
UMAMD logo with the UM Cross and Flame and several
          disability symbols
This newsletter is generally issued weekly by the
United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities,
a caucus of the United Methodist Church.

Click here to join this e-mail list.
This newsletter is also published on the UM Disability Blog
Visit us on the web or Facebook.