Debbie Eisenbise’s work with the Church of the Brethren’s Congregational Life Ministries has concluded, as of Wednesday, Nov. 8. She had worked for about two and a half years as director of Intergenerational Ministries.
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.
Congregational Life Ministries gave awards and citations during the Mission and Ministry Board’s pre-Annual Conference meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Revelation 7:9 Award from the Intercultural Ministry was given to Don and Belita Mitchell. Citations to congregations joining the Open Roof Fellowship were given to two congregations in Illinois: Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren and York Center Church of the Brethren, represented by their respective pastors Katie Shaw Thompson and Christy Waltersdorff.
The National Council of Churches USA (NCC) has joined with the Conference of National Black Churches, the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference in issuing a statement in support of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other federal “safety net” programs that may be under threat as the new administration enters office. Two Church of the Brethren ministries–Brethren Benefit Trust (BBT) and the Disabilities Ministry that is a part of Congregational Life Ministries–have expressed support for the statement and for the ACA as a means for access to health care for Americans, and for vulnerable populations in particular.
This past July, 12 people joined me in the hills of Maryland for the We Are Able workcamp. This annual Church of the Brethren program is for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and volunteers who serve as their assistants. The adults with disabilities and the assistants come together for four days to do service projects, fun recreational activities, and devotions. The workcamp is a time of building community and strengthening faith.
Six churches were welcomed into the Open Roof Fellowship at the Mission and Ministry Board meeting in advance of Annual Conference in Greensboro, N.C. The fellowship recognizes Church of the Brethren congregations that have made great strides in becoming more accessible to people with disabilities.
In January 2016, Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADNet) and the Church of the Brethren Congregational Life Ministries extended an agreement to work together to advocate for persons with disabilities in the church. Since 2014, the Church of the Brethren has had a representative serving on the ADNet board of directors and has worked in cooperation with ADNet’s mission to “support Anabaptist congregations, families, and persons touched by disabilities to nurture inclusive communities.”
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.
On Nov. 18, 2015, Thien An Blind School of Ho Chi Minn City, Vietnam, hosted a one-day training for 30 sociology students as a part of Service Learning at the University of Humanities and Social Sciences. Participating in this training day were Grace Mishler, a Church of the Brethren member who serves in Vietnam with Global Mission and Service; her program assistant Nguyen Xuan; and program trainee Nguyen Thi My Huyen.
On Nov. 8, 2015, Grace Mishler, a Church of the Brethren member and a Global Mission and Service worker in Ho Chi Minh City, was honored for her work with disabled persons by Vietnamese government officials. Selected individuals from the southern region of Vietnam were recognized for their contributions to the disabled community including blind and partially sighted persons, the area of Mishler’s expertise.