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Access What?

By Rachel Chapman

Most people do not know that the second Sunday of October of each year is designated on the UCC church calendar as Access Sunday Did you? This is to be a day when all of the United Church of Christ joins together in celebrating the contributions and gifts of persons with disabilities as well as the progress the church as a whole has made in being more accessible and inclusive. It should also be a day of recognition of the work yet to be done in order to extravagantly welcome people living with disabilities into all areas of the full life of the church.

A tagline of the UCC is “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” Sadly, not all are welcome. Another popular UCC saying is that “Jesus didn’t reject people and neither do we.” However, in many churches attitudinal barriers are more prevalent than physical ones at keeping people who are living with various disabilities from full participation in church settings.

October, Disabilities Awareness Month, is the ideal time to learn about disabilities rights pioneers of the United Church of Christ such as the Rev. Virginia Kreyer and the Rev. Harold Wilke. Ms. Kreyer, born with cerebral palsy, was ordained in the UCC in 1952. As an activist she influenced change by encouraging the UCC to assess its own participation in disability discrimination. Mr. Wilke was born without arms but did not let that stop him from answering his call to ministry. He offered the invocation at the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, accepting a ceremonial pen from President George H. W. Bush with his foot. 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.

The UCC Disabilities Ministries Board of Directors encourages all settings of the UCC to be inclusive and accessible to all (A2A). Our own Southern California Nevada Conference is working toward this designation. Materials for Access Sunday and information on how your church can become A2A are available at www.UCCDM.org.

Pastors and lay leaders are encouraged to share this information with the members of their congregations and other churches in order to celebrate Access Sunday on the second Sunday of October or any Sunday that fits their church’s calendar. Whenever your church decides to celebrate Access Sunday, it is suggested that all or a portion of the offering taken be sent to support UCC Disabilities Ministries and/or the Virginia Kreyer Scholarship Fund which provides financial support to persons with disabilities who are preparing for authorized ministry.

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