Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Accessibility Conversations: Widening the Circle of Love

Accessibility Conversations: Widening the Circle of Love 

By Rev. Dr. Leo Yates, LCPC

Jesus was quite the traveler. He traveled to villages and towns throughout Galilee and shared the Good News. He taught, he advocated for justice, he healed, and he served, among other things. Jesus also worked toward the reconciliation of individuals and communities. In fact, just about all of what Jesus did emphasized the importance of relationships, with God and one another. In the local church we try to learn from Jesus and offer these pathways toward relationships as well. The Commission on Disability Concerns of The Baltimore-Washington Conference took this to heart and implemented a monthly Accessibility Conversations webinar. 

Working alongside the disability commission's support for the provision of accommodations, such as wheelchair ramps and large print materials, the monthly Accessibility Conversations webinar was created with the intent to support churches to build relationships. Each month, Mn. Yvonne Caughman and members of the disability commission discuss a disability-related theme or topic that educates, sensitizes, and offers ways to better support the inclusion of persons with disabilities. The sessions also provide a space to ask questions. The webinars also intend to reiterate the Christian principle of being in relationship with one another. After all, strengthening our relationships is another way of growing into our discipleship as individuals and as churches. 

Yvonne Caughman, an African American woman with blonde hair and stylish glasses.

Mn. Yvonne Caughman, a CLM, is the chairperson of the disability commission. Caughman stated, “There are many persons with disabilities in our churches. Some, if not many, are overlooked. We need to change the church’s mindset to better include them for servant ministries and leadership roles.” As the Social Principles state, "We urge the Church and society to recognize and receive the gifts of persons with disabilities to enable them to be full participants in the community of faith”-- to be full participants in serving and leading. The Accessibility Conversations support churches seeking to learn about life with various conditions, and to examine barriers of architecture, programming, and ableism, while highlighting accessibility and hospitality so deeper relationships can be developed. In this, the webinars work to move beyond superficiality to loving one another, including the recognition of our struggles, recognizing our abilities (gifts), and seeing the whole person.