By Debbie Eisenbise
Mark’s Gospel reminds us that we are called to reach out to persons of all needs and abilities and to go to extraordinary lengths to bring them to Jesus: “Then some people came, bringing to Jesus 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” (Mark 2:3-4). Church of the Brethren congregations committed to and actively engaged in ministry to and with persons with disabilities are therefore recognized as Open Roof congregations.
This year, we are shifting from offering an award for such efforts to designating congregations with disabilities ministries as members of the Open Roof Fellowship. This fellowship brings together those who are engaged in “ensuring that all may worship, serve, be served, learn, and grow in the presence of God as valued members of the Christian community.”
Engagement in such a ministry may include:
— facility modifications allowing persons with limited mobility, sight, or hearing to fully participate in the life of the church
— program changes to accommodate and empower those with developmental and/or learning disabilities
— staff hires or volunteer designations to advocate for and assist those with varying abilities in the congregation
— building relationships with community agencies, organizations, and/or group homes that serve persons with disabilities and/or mental illness.
Congregations that are part of the Open Roof Fellowship are enriched through diversity and enlivened by welcoming all into Christian fellowship, worship, education, discipleship, and service. Through this designation, in addition to being connected to each other, congregations will be listed as such in denominational communications, and will receive information of interest from the Disabilities Ministry of the Church of the Brethren and from the Anabaptist
Interested congregations are invited to join by filling out an application and sharing their story at www.brethren.org/disabilities/openroof.html by June 1. Applications received after the due date will be considered for the following year. Certificates of designation are presented at the meeting of the Mission and Ministry Board prior to Annual Conference.
If you have any questions, contact Debbie Eisenbise, Director of Intergenerational Ministries, 800-323-8039 ext. 306 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Additional information, self-assessment tools, resources, and encouragement to begin, continue, expand, and strengthen disabilities ministries in congregations can be found at www.brethren.org/disabilities . Plans are for this webpage to be updated as new resources become available.
— Debbie Eisenbise is director of Intergenerational Ministries for the Church of the Brethren, and is the member of the Congregational Life Ministries staff who serves the denomination’s Disabilities Ministry.