By Rachel Chapman
Celebration, acknowledgement, challenge…all are part of Access Sunday. On the United Church of Christ’s calendar, every second Sunday in October is designated as Access Sunday. For some reason, very few churches are aware of that and even fewer recognize it. Ideally, Access Sunday should be a time of celebration of the contributions and gifts persons living with disabilities have made as well as the progress the church as a whole has made in being more accessible and inclusive. It is an opportunity to share information about disabilities rights pioneers of the United Church of Christ such as the Rev. Virginia Kreyer and the Rev. Harold Wilke. Rev. Kreyer, born with cerebral palsy, was ordained in the UCC later in life. As a social activist, she influenced change by encouraging the UCC to assess its own participation in disability discrimination. Rev. Wilke was born without arms but did not let that stop him from answering his call to ministry. He is probably most known publicly for offering the invocation at the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, accepting a ceremonial pen with his foot from President George H. W. Bush. Wilke encouraged the UCC to change language it used to talk to and about people with disabilities. Both Kreyer and Wilke were instrumental in the formation of what is known today as UCC Disabilities Ministries.
This is also a time to acknowledge the efforts and commitments your church, Association and Conference have made to purposely include all persons living with disabilities in the full life of all church settings. If these commitments and efforts are not being made, then it’s time to challenge your leaders and fellow Christians into executing plans to make this happen. Becoming accessible to all takes prayer and reflection. It is not always easy and may take serious financial planning but it is what we are called to do to extravagantly welcome all of God’s children into God’s kin-dom.
By the way, Access Sunday can be celebrated any time your church has a calendar opening. October, which is Disabilities Awareness Month, happens to be a good time to remind abled-bodied people of the importance of recognizing the contributions differently abled people have and will continue to make when truly included into the full life of the church.
Rachel Chapman and her husband, Kevin, are members of Christian Fellowship Congregational Church of San Diego, UCC. Rachel is a member of the United Church of Christ Board of Directors, Class of 2023 and the UCC Women’s Table. She is also Vice-Moderator of the Southern California Nevada Conference. With a passion for disability rights, she is the lead for the SCNC Conference Inclusion Team and an activist for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Rachel’s hobbies include baking, photography and travel.