by Debbie Eisenbise
“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” (Mark 2:3-4).
July 26 marks the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Find more information at https://www.adaanniversary.org . This year at Annual Conference, Congregational Life Ministries welcomed the 27th congregation into the Open Roof Fellowship. Over the past 13 years, these congregations have intentionally embraced and invested themselves in disabilities ministries.
Just as the friends of the paralyzed man opened the roof to make a way for him to find his way to Jesus, we are called to welcome persons of all abilities into the church. The 2006 Church of the Brethren resolution, “Commitment of Accessibility and Inclusion,” asks Brethren “to work to ensure that all may worship, serve, be served, learn, and grow in the presence of God as valued members of the Christian community,” and “to examine barriers, both physical and attitudinal, that prevent people with disabilities from living fully in church community and work to rectify these situations.”
Congregations committed to this ministry are invited to join the Open Roof Fellowship (go to www.brethren.org/disabilities/openroof for more information). Applications for the Open Roof Fellowship are ongoing. The Center Church of the Brethren in Louisville, Ohio, will be the first to join in 2018.
Self-assessment tools are available through the Anabaptist Disabilities Network at www.adnetonline.org/Resources/AccessibilityAwareness/Pages/Auditing-Accessibility.aspx for congregations interested in analyzing accessibility. Education begins with the “5 Stages: the Journey of Disability Attitudes,” as well as works cited in a bibliography available at www.brethren.org/disabilities/openroof.html . Congregations may call on denominational disabilities advocate Rebekah Flores for consultation about programs and facilities accessibility. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Flores also serves with me on the Disabilities Advocacy Team, along with Mark Pickens, Sarah Steele, and Carolyn Neher. Out team is developing a network of individuals and families interested in increasing accessibility in the church and our communities. An online Church of the Brethren Disabilities Community is active on Facebook and welcomes all who are interested.
-- Debbie Eisenbise is director of Intergenerational Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, and as a member of the Congregational Life Ministries staff carries responsibility for the denomination’s Disabilities Ministry.