The 2015 Open Roof Award was presented on behalf of the Disabilities Ministry of Congregational Life Ministries to two Church of the Brethren congregations: Cedar Lake Church of the Brethren in Northern Indiana District, and Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren in Shenandoah District. The award was given to representatives of the two churches during the Mission and Ministry Board meeting in Tampa, Fla., in advance of Annual Conference.
The two congregations have been honored for making specific efforts to “ensure that all may worship, serve, be served, learn, and grow in the presence of God, as valued members of the Christian community.”
Accepting the award on behalf of the Cedar Lake Church were delegates Bob and Glenda Shull. Pastor Scott Duffey and Becky Duffey accepted the award on behalf of the Staunton Church.
Along with a certificate, each congregation received a copy of a brand-new book, “Circles of Love,” published by the Anabaptist Disabilities Network, of which the Church of the Brethren is a member. The book features stories of congregations that have broadened their welcome to include persons with various abilities. One chapter of the book tells the story of Oakton Church of the Brethren, one of the previous recipients of the Open Roof Award, which now number 16.
Following are the citations that were read at the board meeting:
“You have made significant strides through the years to accommodate the needs of your members, and empower all people for engagement in worship and in service. In doing so, you have found ways to expand your welcome to others in your community. This is an on-going commitment.
“As a congregation you have supported and helped to raise children with severe brain trauma who are now adults active in the congregation and serving as ushers, greeters and grounds keepers. In addition, Cedar Lake supports students with ‘physical and learning challenges’ who participate in a work / service program overseen by the local high school’s special education department. Some of these students are members of the church. Along with being a placement for this program during the school year, the church provides summer opportunities for service as well.
“Cedar Lake has paid special attention to the Christian education needs of all, utilizing the gifts and abilities of a member with a degree in special education to assist in children’s programming. As that program expands, staff considerations include a commitment to continue to meet all children’s particular physical and emotional needs.
“In addition, you have met challenges posed by age-related disabilities providing large-print and projected texts and hearing enhancement devices. And the congregation has remodeled for accessibility allowing those with wheel chairs easy access to the building. Hand railings and automated doors welcome all who might need extra physical assistance.
“You have clearly seen opportunities presented by the varying abilities of your members and through the years have responded with creativity and compassion. And so we thank you, the Cedar Lake congregation, for being a blessing to your local community, and to the denomination.”
“Staunton Church of the Brethren has discovered that making a few changes can make a world of difference to those whose disabilities might otherwise compromise their level of participation in the life of the church. Several members sent their testimonies to be shared today:
–Bill Cline, who uses a walker, writes: ‘We used to have to use the back door on the lower level to get the fellowship hall; now we have the elevator. I don’t know how we’d get in the church without it.’ With regard to worship, he comments: ‘The screen is a lot easier to read than the hymnal [and] shorter pews are a wonderful help with walkers.’
–Rosalie McLear, who also uses a walker, writes: ‘I used to say “As long as I can climb the steps I will do it,” but a stroke made me change my mind. The elevator has been a big help. [And] I can take my walker into the bathroom stall and have some things I can hang on to.’
–Don Shoemaker, who uses a wheelchair, writes: ‘Now we can get to the basement without going outside and around.’ Norma Shoemaker commented that without the changes ‘after serious health issues…[Don] would not have been able to attend [any longer].’
“The changes to the building have created a worship space with a cross evident in the center of the sanctuary where the pews have been shortened for accessibility. A screen (with attention to clear uncluttered text) allows those with limited sight to participate in worship. And hearing devices have enabled a member to remain active in the choir.
“We congratulate the Staunton congregation in breaking down barriers to continued active participation and leadership through sensitivity to the needs of your members and renovations made to accommodate them.”
Find out more about the Church of the Brethren Disabilities Ministries at www.brethren.org/disabilities