Open Roof Award
"Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dig through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, 'Son, you are forgiven…'" --Mark 2:3-5
The Open Roof Award is given annually to recognize a congregation or district in the Church of the Brethren that has made great strides in becoming accessible to people with disabilities in the life of the church.
Congregations working on inclusion for people with disabilities will be recognized for their efforts through the “Open Roof” Award from the Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren. Created in 2003, this award recognizes congregations or districts that are working to ensure that all may worship, serve, be served, learn and grow in the presence of God as valued members of the Christian community.
Members of the Disabilities Ministry of the Church of the Brethren have created a form for congregations to complete that gathers information about the type of inclusion work being conducted.
Open Roof Award nomination form (fillable Word document)
Three congregations were acknowledged for their extra efforts to welcome persons with special needs into their congregations. Jonathan Shively, executive director of Congregational Life Ministries, presented the 2014 Open Roof Award to South Waterloo (Iowa) Church of the Brethren, Lone Star Church of the Brethren in Lawrence, Kan., and Clover Creek Church of the Brethren in Martinsburg, Pa.
South Waterloo Church of the Brethren has developed a relationship with Harmony House, a brain injury care facility in Waterloo, Iowa, providing gift bags to some of the residents, and space for outings and the annual fall dance. The church also “says yes” to its own members who live with disabilities, offering ways for them to serve in spite of their challenges, learning how to incorporate them into church activities. An elevator has been installed in the church building, and restrooms are ADA compliant. A pew in the sanctuary was removed to make room for those in wheelchairs, and ushers help those who use walkers.
Lone Star Church of the Brethren is a congregation that has struggled to achieve progress and is committed to keep moving forward. The conversation about physical improvements to make buildings accessible began there 40 years ago, and although over the four decades not all the things that were tried were that helpful, the church persisted. The church has been able to install an elevator. A child with Down Syndrome lights candles for morning worship. A young adult with cerebral palsy provides leadership in vacation bible school, leads prayer in church, and gives testimony. The congregation understands that providing opportunities for all to serve is often the best way to be of service.
At Clover Creek Church of the Brethren, offering physical accessibility is a work in progress, but the church provides large print bulletins and hearing enhancement devices, and has a new concrete front entrance ramp that eliminates steps. In 2009, the church started the John’s Way Medical Equipment Ministry to help people with disabilities and/or medical equipment needs. They take in used medical equipment, clean and repair it as necessary, and then give it away. A total of more than 2000 items have been provided for people in need, facilitated by a large warehouse space. This May on the 10-year anniversary of John’s Way, which was named after 19-year church member John Scott Baird who was born with a rare genetic disorder which made walking or speaking impossible, the church dedicated a new warehouse building for the ministry.