UCCDM Lenten Devotional-Who Do You Say That I Am?

This is the eighth in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2014 series. This devotional reflection comes from Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas, UCCDM Secretary. Her bio cam be found on the Board of Directors page.

Maundy Thursday

Genesis 12 ; Gospel of John 13, 18

It occurs to me that Sarai, the wife of the patriarch Abram, has something in common with Jesus. Both had their identities betrayed by someone they loved and trusted.

Earlier in this Lenten season we found ourselves confronted by the call of God to Abram to leave Ur, when we follow that narrative to Genesis 12 we find Abram and Sarai called again to leave for a new land. This time they are traveling from Haran into Egypt. Verses 10-20 are often left out of the lectionary which stops at verse 14. It’s almost as if the lectionary is trying to avoid the issue of true identity as it is fully raised in the text. You see, in the narrative Abram asks Sarai to pretend to be his sister rather than his wife. Thus, Sarai briefly becomes one of the wives of Pharaoh. When Pharaoh discovers this he returns Sarai to Abram and sends them on their way.

We don’t hear Sarai’s thoughts on these events. We can imagine what a wife might say to a spouse who asked her to pretend to be a sibling rather than a spouse. But that is not in the text. What is in the text is that Sarai’s husband had to the power to change her identity, to say who she was. Furthermore, we see that Abram’s redefinition of Sarai’s identity leads her to yet another identity completely.

It is Maundy Thursday, Jesus has gathered with the disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover feast, to wash their feet, to proclaim that his body and life are given for them (and us), and to proclaim his coming betrayal. The text tells us that it is as Jesus does these things that the decision is made in Judas’ heart to betray the Master. Jesus even tells Judas to go and do what must be done. Judas, one of the twelve disciples, one of Jesus’ trusted friends is the one who betrays him. It is Judas who must decide who he thinks Jesus is, and then based on that decision Judas will collude with the powers that be. It is Judas who will signal Jesus’ identity with a kiss in the garden.

In both these texts the issue of personal identity are the key issues. In both of these texts someone else decides whom the other is and takes action that will radically alter the both the life of the other, the life of one deciding who the other is, and the unfolding of history.

As a woman with disabilities, many of which are hidden, I know what it is like to have others decide who I am. I know what it is like to be “in the closet” of disability, to have relationships in which there is little knowledge of my disability, and the emotions others show when I let my full identity be known. I know what it is to be vulnerable with others to let them know the depths of my experience and have to trust that they will know with whom and when to share that knowledge. I know what it is like to feel that trust betrayed. To watch at the annual school-house parent night as your parent outs you sharing with the teachers about your disabilities in front of classmates and other teachers. I know what it is like in the workplace when co-workers sense there is something different about you, but not knowing what it is decide they will name it–and name it wrongly. I know what it is like when others redefine your identity such that it disrupts and utterly re-routes your own sense of self. With disability it is not so much identity politics as it is identity of individuality/self that is intertwined with the experience of living in a body so different from the norm that the very world around you is rife with barriers that disable. Life with disability is asking each individual you encounter, in some way–who do you say that I am?

Loving God, You who know me better than I know myself. You who created me to be fearlessly and wonderfully made. Help me to know myself, to share myself, and delight in the friends I break bread with. Empower me to raise my face even when others define me in ways that threaten my identity or life. Grant me Your strength and love, to always know myself, and to do Your will. Amen.

 

In the News: UCC Congregation Uses Technology to Become Accessible to Persons with Hearing Loss

The UCC News has published an article about First Congregational Church in Madison, Wis. which recently installed T-Coil in the sanctuary. The T-Coil Technology allows those with hearing impairments to better hear the service. It is one step the church is taking toward becoming A2A. Congregation Installs T-Coil for Accessibility for People with Hearing Loss

UCCDM Lenten Devotional-Willing

This is devotional is for the Second Sunday in Lent. It is the third in the UCCDM Lenten Series 2014. This reflection is provided by Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas, UCCDM Secretary.

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’* So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” Genesis 12:1-4

 

“ — We have completed a building and program audit. [Several different audits are mentioned in this packet. Your score is less important than your willingness to survey and assess places where improvement is needed.]

–We have identified __ things to change this year.

–We have identified __ things to change in 2 years.

–We have Identified  __ things to change in 5 years.” ~from the A2A checklist in “Anybody, Every Body, Christ’s Body”

Ah, Lent. It sometimes seems that Lent can be a season of magnifying our imperfections, second only to the resolution season of New Year. (In all honesty, Lent is not a pleasant time.) We often talk about what we are giving up or taking on as new spiritual practice for the season of Lent.

We often talk about Lent as an individual journey, and that is fitting if we are just to mirror Jesus’ journey in the wilderness. The lectionary this week focuses on Abram’s journey out of Ur (Genesis 12:1-4). Abram, however, did not journey alone he went with God and his family. Abram had his community with him on the journey. Is the lectionary nudging us to consider the journey of our community as well as ourselves?

What if the Body of Christ started a journey of community reflection? I wonder what we would reflect on..dogma, creeds, ecumenical relations? In the UCC, there is little doubt we would focus on issues of justice. But the Christian practice of Lent has traditionally been an internal journey, like Jesus in the wilderness. Is there something internal to the Body of Christ that we might bring forward for reflection and discussion? Surely we are not perfect as a church–as a community of believers–even as the Body of Christ. We celebrate Communion with the broken Body of Christ, surely we don’t expect the body is perfect for we celebrate the brokenness and the new covenant that comes from the brokenness and bringing back together!

Even when we work for justice and ‘walk the talk’ of the gospel to the best of our ability, there is always something more that God is calling us to set out towards. We are not a people destined to settle in Ur.

In the UCC when we reflect on how we live in covenant and community as the Body of Christ, we often reflect on how ‘inclusive’ and diverse our community is~we are multi-racial, multi-lingual, anti-racist, open and affirming, immigrant welcoming. . .. Are we “Accessible to All” as well? If the Body of Christ is always breaking open and coming back together to welcome the stranger from margins…then perhaps the journey is one which continues each time God calls us to move forward. Do we continue to respond as Abram did? Do we simply go or do we say ‘enough of your speaking God, we are staying in Ur where we know who we are and who we include’?

The UCC asserted at the 2005 Synod, that is called to be a church that is “Accessible to All”. This does not mean that the church, or the Body of Christ, is or will be perfect–just that it is faithfully continuing the journey. This is the season of Lent, the time to reflect on or to practice a new understanding of our response to God’s call. To paraphrase the A2A checklist: Our score is less important than our willingness to survey and assess places where improvement is needed.

UCCDM February 2014 Update

To those whom may be interested to know about the current work of the UCC Disability Ministries Board–Friends, UCC Members, UCC Clergy, UCC persons with disability and our ecumenical partners,

This is to provide you with an update of the work of the UCC Disability Ministry (UCCDM) Board of Directors since our last update published in October 2013.

After much discernment, in late November 2013 the UCCDM Board voted that effective January 1, 2014, the Mental Health Network would be its own entity rather than a sub-committee of  UCCDM. We look forward to both the continued flourishing of the UCC Mental Health Network (UCCMHN) and the on-going collaboration between the UCCDM and UCCMHN. For full details please see the Press Release UCCDM and UCCMHN. UCCDM will be returning MHN designated funds to UCCMHN as well as providing additional funds to support this newly independent ministry.

The Widening the Welcome conferences have been a successful collaboration of the UCCDM and UCCMHN. The UCCDM has received some requests from local churches to use the Widening the Welcome name and logo. After discussion, it has been decided that use of the Widening the Welcome name and logo will not be granted to other entities or individual congregations, and that the Widening the Welcome name and logo will continue to be the designation used only to indicate the collaboration between UCCDM and UCCMHN. The next Widening the Welcome Conference has not been scheduled at this time.

In our October update we noted three main foci for 2013-2014, here is an update:

  • Relationships-UCCDM has strengthened relationship with UCCMHN as the UCCDM Chair is now participating in monthly meetings of the UCCMHN.

  • Relationships-UCCDM has started to explore ways to strengthen relationships with members of the UCC interested in Disability Ministry. Board Meetings as always are open to UCC Members. If you have ideas of how UCCDM may further interact with UCC members please contact the UCCDM Board.

  • Accessible to All (A2A)-UCCDM has discussed with the national setting how to include A2A ideals in general UCC curriculum. This continues to be a challenge and the UCCDM is discussing creating its own curriculum content. If you would like to volunteer and have skills in creating curriculum content please contact the UCCDM Board.

In October we also noted on-going foci for 2013-2014, here is an update:

  • Scholarship Funds–UCCDM subcommittee for the Virginia Kreyer Scholarship has reached out to others identified as interested in fundraising to explore a major fundraiser for the Virginia Kreyer Scholarship. $34,000 needs to be raised in 2014. If you would like to assist with fundraising please, contact the UCCDM Board.

  • Website–The UCCDM website has been updated and this continues to be a work-in-progress. A2A congregations and Conferences are now listed on the website. A2A resources are now easier to find. A frequently asked questions page has been added. Blog contributions have been requested. If you you believe you have original blog content related to disability ministry to contribute please contact the UCCDM Board.

  • Ecumenical Work–UCCDM Board Member, Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas, served as a representative at the Ecumenical Disability Advocacy Network (EDAN) Pre-Assembly of the World Council of Church General Assembly. Rev. Parrish Lucas also served as one of four UCC delegates to the World Council of Churches General Assembly in Busan, South Korea. UCCDM continues to recognize its leadership in disability ministry within the ecumenical movement, as such UCCDM continues see a need for sending people with disabilities as leaders and delegates to ecumenical gatherings and working groups.

  • By-laws–UCCDM subcommittee on by-laws has begun the work of updating the UCCDM by-laws in preparation for the future of the UCCDM within the new Unified Board structure of the denomination. It is hoped that revised by-laws will lend themselves to the potentiality of 501(c)3 status. The subcommittee hopes to complete a proposed revision of the by-laws by the end of summer 2014.

In addition to the work of the DM Board, individual Board Members continue to teach and advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities and mental health concerns at the local congregation, Association, and Conference levels of the UCC. We would love to hear about the work that you, the members of the UCC and friends of UCCDM, are doing in disability ministry in your context. This is story of the UCCDM Board, would you send us your story?

Sincerely,

Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas

UCCDM Secretary 2012-2014

Growth Brings Change to UCC Disabilities and Mental Health Ministries

UCC Disabilities Ministries and UCC Mental Health Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (December 9, 2013)

UCC DM Contact: Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas, UCC DM Secretary, kelli@womenwhospeakinchurch.com

UCC MHN Contact: Rev. Alan Johnson, MHN Chair, revalan2004@comcast.net

 

Growth Brings Change to UCC Disabilities and Mental Health Ministries

Our ministry of inclusion and accessibility is growing!  The success of our four “Widening the Welcome: Inclusion for All” Conferences has helped us reach out to more people and their families with disabilities and mental health challenges than ever before.  We have been actively making an impact at interfaith and ecumenical conferences as varied as the White House Conference on Mental Health,  to the World Council of Churches in South Korea. Work at the congregational level is growing as churches address architectural changes and create committees to provide mental health and disability ministry for their congregations and/or communities. People with developmental and cognitive disabilities are seeking increased acceptance and inclusion, too.

Each area of disability and mental health ministry is seeking more of our attention than our current structure can deliver.  Therefore, the UCC Disabilities Ministries Board has voted that effective January 1, 2014, the Mental Health Network will be its own entity rather than a sub-committee of  UCC Disabilities Ministries.

Rev. Lynda Bigler, Chair of the Disabilities Ministries Board and Rev. Alan Johnson, Chair of the Mental Health Network are excited about the opportunity to expand their ministries.   Becoming separate Boards will enable each group to more intensely focus on its particular ministry and will allow for a wider array of projects being undertaken and completed without working together on everything.  “By modifying our structure we hope to reach more people at all levels of the church,” said Rev. Bigler. “We can focus our energies on even more ways to encourage local churches to become A2A, Accessible to All,” she says.  Rev. Johnson adds, “The new structure will also allow us to work more closely with individual congregations in addressing and meeting their needs regarding mental health.  The boards will join in partnership as we both envision more Widening the Welcome Conferences in the future.” Both Revs. Bigler and Johnson emphasize that “inclusion and accessibility for all” remains the core mission of both the UCC Disability Ministries and the UCC Mental Health Network.

UCCDM Update October 2013

To those whom may be interested to know about the current work of the UCC Disability Ministries Board–Friends, UCC Members, UCC Clergy, UCC persons with disability and our ecumenical partners,

 

Greetings! The UCC Disabilities Ministries Board of Directors has recently completed our annual meeting. This is to give you a brief look at our recent work and the work we have planned for 2013-2014.

 

In October 2013 we welcomed three new Board Members to UCCDM Board of Directors they are The Rev. Leslie Carole Talyor, M.Div, D.Min. of the Ohio Conference; Mr. Kevin Pettit, Disability Inclusion Associate from the Rocky Mountain Conference; and The. Rev. Susan Burns from the Minnesota Conference. They each bring uniquie perspecives and energy to the work of UCCDM and their bios will soon be on the uccdm.org site so check back in November and get to know them better. At our annual meeting we also elected new officers of the UCCDM as follows: The Rev. Lynda I. Bigler, Chair; The Rev. Jeanne Tyler, Vice Chair; The Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas, Secretary; and The. Rev. Craig Modahl, Treasurer.

 

There are a few things for us to celebrate in the year now ending, 2012-2013 these include:

  • UCCDM partnering with UCC Mental Illness Network to host the fourth Widening the Welcome in Long Beach as a Pre-Synod Event.

  • A UCCDM and UCC Mental Illness Network presence at Synod with a booth, speak outs about Mental Health Sunday and UCCDM, a witnesses to bullying of people with disabilities, and a request for funding of the Virginia Kreyer Scholarship (the later was sadly defeated).

  • UCCDM funded the first gathering of a renewed Mental Illness Network, which decided to change its name to the UCC Mental Health Network.

  • The creation of Access Sunday (October 13th) Worship Materials.

  • The establishment of Mental Health Sunday and the UCC Mental Health Network’s creation of worship resources for Mental Health Sunday (October 20th).

 

We also discerned what we most wanted to focus on in the coming year, 2013-2014 and these include:

  • Strengthening Relationships–within the UCC, with the Mental Health Network, Conference Inclusion Teams, and others.

  • Develop the “Accessible to All” (A2A) designation. This would include reworking the current A2A materials to make them easier for congregational use, encouraging more churches to become A2A and develop mental health ministries, and continuing to support Access Sunday throughout the denomination.

  • Develop a working group to address the ministry needs of persons with developmental disabilities as well as their families, friends, and congregations.

While the above will be our main foci for the coming year we will continue to:

  • Raise money to establish the Virginia Kreyer Scholarship Fund to support persons with disabilities seeking authorized ministry. $34,000.00 must be raised by 2015!

  • Improve our website to make it more informative/useful.

  • Continue to do the ecumenical work associated with disabilities on behalf of the UCC at the national and World Council of Churches levels.

  • Continue to develop the leadership of people with disabilities in the UCC.

  • Revise our by-laws and revisit establishing 501(c)3 status.

 

The UCCDM has a small Board of Directors working on these tasks. We ask for your prayers, your treasure, and your talent. If you have a particular gift that you think would be a match for helping to achieve the above mentioned goals and would like to volunteer please send us an email. We have also wondered what a “membership” with UCCDM might mean to those not currently on the Board–What does/would it mean to you? What would you contribute? What you want in return?

 

Let’s make this a two-way dialogue, we would like to hear from you!

In the memory of Christ, who called all people to Him,

Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas,

UCCDM Secretary

UCCDM Board of Directors Annual Meeting 2013.

This is the public announcement that the United Church of Christ’s Board of Director’s Annual Meeting for 2013 will take place on October 5-October 7, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Persons interesting in attending this meeting should be in touch with the UCCDM Chair, Rev. Jeanne Tyler, or UCCDM Secretary Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas (kelli@womenwhospeakinchhurch.com) about the most appropriate times to attend the meeting.