Disability & Accessibility, Diversity, Ministry

2023 Updates from Disability Ministries of the Susquehanna Conference

Disability Ministries is working hard to advocate for the inclusion and empowerment of people with disabilities!

The featured image shows a diverse group of people with a person seated in a wheelchair at the center.

Hello! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, BeckieWrites.com, where I blog about faith, books, and disability awareness.  My name is Rev. Rebecca L. Holland and I am a visually impaired, Filipino American clergywoman serving in the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church. I was ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church in June of 2018 and I find great joy in serving as the pastor of two churches in Central Pennsylvania. As a person with a disability, I am passionate about disability ministries.

At the time of this writing (March, 2023) I am honored to serve as the chair of the Disability Ministries Task Force of the Susquehanna Conference. This committee deals specifically with disability concerns within our conference. Members of our committee include other clergy throughout our conference and lay members who attend many different churches. I wanted to share the following excerpt from the report I submitted to our Annual Conference because I am excited about our work related disability ministries.  CLICK HERE to read our entire report.

           Our Disability Ministries Task Force is connected to the Disability Ministries Committee of the United Methodist Church (UMCDMC). The Disability Ministries Committee for the United Methodist Church oversees disability related concerns for the worldwide connection of the United Methodist Church. The Disability Ministries Task Force receives no funding from the Susquehanna Conference and we do not have a budget; therefore, any donations made to the Disability Ministries Task Force are sent directly to the United Methodist Disability Ministries Committee.

Our Disability Ministries Task Force seeks to empower people with disabilities for leadership within the church, provide radical hospitality to people in our communities who have disabilities, and advocate for the needs of both clergy and laity with disabilities in the Susquehanna Conference. Concern for people with disabilities is rooted in our Biblical call as Christians as well as in the church polity of the United Methodist Church.  The Book of Discipline 2016, ¶653, states, “There shall be in each annual conference a committee on disability concerns or other structure to provide for the functions of this ministry and maintain the connectional relationship.”

What We Have Accomplished: In the past year, we have accomplished the following tasks:

  1. Members of our Task Force serve as both clergy and laity throughout our conference to work to make the church more inclusive for people with disabilities. Members of our Task Force serve in a variety of settings and work within their local churches to empower people with disabilities, create inclusive spaces, and advocate for the needs of people with disabilities.
  2. Disability Ministries Awareness Sunday. The Susquehanna Conferencerecognized Disability Awareness Sunday on October 9, 2022. We have submitted a resolution for Disability Awareness Sunday to be held on the second Sunday of October in 2023. We also encouraged local churches to collect a special offering on Disability Awareness Sunday. This special offering was sent to the Disability Ministries Committee of the United Methodist Church and helped to provide grants to local churches. These grants helped local churches to become more accessible.
  3. We strongly encouraged clergy and churches to carefully consider before inviting a traveling faith healer to visit their congregation. We published an open letter which was widely circulated beseeching clergy and congregations to carefully consider before inviting a faith healer into their pulpit. In this letter, we shared concerns about how charlatans often fleece money from congregations and make empty promises that they will provide miracles in exchange for money. We also outlined that not every person with a disability wants to be cured. People with disabilities can live full and complete lives.
  4. We maintained our website and renewed our unique domain name (DisabilityUMC.org).  In order to make disciples, we have worked to communicate the fact that God loves all people and that all people are of sacred worth; therefore, we have created a website to communicate this message. Our website includes resources, news, and a blog. Our website is a way to collect resources and share information that will be helpful to the people of the Susquehanna Conference. The website has resources that relate to issues of disability, advocacy, outreach, empowerment, and awareness. You can find our website at: DisabilityUMC.org
  5. We maintained our Facebook Page and used social media to promote disability awareness.  Our Facebook Page has over two hundred “likes” and continues to grow. We post regularly to the Facebook Page to continue to raise awareness and communicate disability related news. You can find us at @SUSUMCDisability.
  6. We continued our connection with the Disability Ministries Committee of the United Methodist Church. The UMCDMC provides training, advocacy, and research with the entire connection. We are proud to be connected with the UMCDMC. You can find more information about their work at UMCDMC.org.
  7. We supported the efforts of the Disability Ministries Committee of the United Methodist Church to put forth two resolutions regarding disability concerns at the next General Conference. The Disability Ministries Committee is currently drafting two resolutions to be put forth before the next gathering of the General Conference. The current working titles of these resolutions are “Resolution Concerning Anti-Ableism,” and “Ableism and Audism.”
  8. We advocated for the next gathering of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church to include an Accessibility Coordinator. During the Gathering of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference which occurred in 2022, a discussion regarding the use of ZOOM to facilitate meetings of the NEJ occurred. Rev. Rebecca L. Holland, a delegate from our conference, spoke from the floor about the need for the NEJ to consider utilizing an Accessibility Coordinator in the future. This is especially true for virtual gatherings, because technology is not equally accessible to all people.
  9. We submitted a resolution to The Susquehanna Annual Conference to include captions and/or subtitles in all future gatherings of the Annual Conference.  In the United Methodist Church inclusiveness means the freedom for the total involvement of all persons who meet the requirements of the United Methodist Book of Discipline in the membership and leadership of the Church at any level and in every place. The Disability Ministries Task force has heard concerns from both clergy and laity that they were unable to follow the proceedings of past Annual Conference gatherings due to the lack of captions. Some clergy and laity were unable to participate in the voting process due to the lack of captions.   

Please Consider Supporting Disability Ministries

Any donations made to the Disability Ministries Task Force of the Susquehanna Conference are sent directly to the United Methodist Disability Ministries Committee.

I am pleased to announce that on Good Friday 2023, our offering at Christ Community UMC  will be donated to Disability Ministries. If you would like to support the work of Disability Ministries, you can also  donate any time online at UMCDMC.org.

About the Author: Rev. Rebecca L. Holland (M.Div.) is visually impaired, Filipino clergywoman ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church. She is the pastor of two congregations in Central Pennsylvania. Her work focuses on the intersection between faith and disability theology. She is the author of Through My Good Eye: A Memoir in Verse, The United Methodist Church and Disability, and Hope for the Broken: Using Writing to Find God’s Grace.She is currently working on project that focuses on interpreting Disability Theology from a Wesleyan perspective. To stay up to date with her work, please subscribe to this blog by typing your email address into he box labeld “subscribe.”  

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