by Debby Newman for the Disability Ministries Committee of the United Methodist Church [photo DMC member Eve Newman with Lent kit]
Centennial United Methodist Church in Roseville, Minnesota, wants to share accessible, inclusive Christian Lent traditions with other Methodists. For over a decade, the Flames group has grown in faith through hands-on scripture lessons, service and social activities. From Wacky Olympics to puppetry, Psalms and communion, our activities reflect life for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. However, for the past year, we’ve had to adapt to mostly virtual gatherings and activities. Has it worked? YES!
“I like the Flames monthly Zoom classes, because we get to see each other and be there for each other,” says Chelsey, one of the regulars.
After 10 minutes catching up, Pastor Brian Hacklander starts class with a familiar Psalm. He leads and we follow – “This is the day the Lord has made.” He then says to the group, “Of all my Zoom meetings, you have the best song participation.”
At their request, the study topic is “God Across Cultures.” So, when Brian moves on to “Greetings,” everyone says hello in different languages and ways, such as American Sign Language. Flame member Ona shared, “Being hearing impaired gives me an opportunity to be part of two cultures, a Deaf and a hearing culture. It gives me great joy when people ask me to sign for them.” She added, “my disability is not a burden but in the future, could we have Closed Caption for the Zoom?” She also expressed hope for interpreters when church resumes. “I am happy who I am; my disability is not limiting me,” she said.
The group has no limits in their faiths, and share freely. The meetings engage everyone, and members express this participation by asking questions, sharing wisdom, and sharing skills. We may watch a clip of “Chuck Knows Church,” read scriptures, and respond to the day’s theme. We include a show and tell. Participants show results of activities that one of the volunteers or reverends distributed before class. Because Erik lives hundreds of miles away, a volunteer mails his pack in advance.
Following the prayer, our “Minnesota good-byes” are long. Since autumn, we learned about our Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist friends. After Easter, we’ll study the African Methodist Episcopal Church and American Indian faith cultures. This month, our activities include Christian Lent traditions. We’re sharing them with you here–Lesson 13.