First, I want to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Miriam Spies and I am privileged to serve as the Volunteer and Communications Specialist for Disability Concerns (and Safe Church) out of the Burlington, ON office. Three years ago I was ordained within The United Church of Canada where, up to July 1 of this year, I served as a minister for young families and young adults at St. Paul’s United Church, Dundas, ON. Engaging in ecumenical life and work has always been important to me and how I live as a disciple of Jesus. Since 2013, I have served on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches which continues to be a joy and a privilege, even throughout the challenging work of ecumenism.
During my Master of Divinity, I only dabbled in disability and ministry, but since then I have become more involved out of a need for my vocational identity and a call to contribute to this work. Currently I am finishing a Graduate Certificate in Disability from Western Theological Seminary, with hopes for doctoral work one day around disability, ministry, and leadership. I live with Cerebral Palsy and so this work of building mutual relationships with people with disabilities and creating space where all might serve together in God’s community is close to my heart.
Relationships in the Body of Christ matter! In the pursuit of unity in Christ, we are called to be in relationship and in service of God together. This uniquely matters to people living with disabilities and their families, folks who have been historically and presently pushed to the margins of society and even church, though they make up 17 percent of the population.
And so, Disability Concerns ministry was created by Christian Reformed churches in 1982 to serve Christian Reformed Churches. Our mission is to support every congregation in reaching the biblical ideal of everybody belongs and everybody serves. We strive to do this, together with you, through:
- A network of disability advocates who work in Christian Reformed churches and classes, and coordinate this work with Reformed Church in America’s Disability Concerns. If your church does not have a disability advocate or you’re not sure who yours is, please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org); we’ll help identify and equip someone in your congregation to serve your congregation. You can find the name of your Regional Disability Advocate by clicking on your classis in the classis listing and looking for the advocate’s name in the right sidebar. (If your classis does not have an advocate, Synod 2016 encouraged your classis to identify someone whom we will be pleased to equip for ministry.)
- Producing resources tailored for churches on worship, caring, accessibility, awareness, church education, and more. You can find these resources on our website (www.crcna.org/disability) and can also subscribe there to receive electronic editions of Breaking Barriers and our monthly e-newsletter. To receive as paper copies of Breaking Barriers, please contact us to be added to our free bulk-mailing list.
Will you serve with us in this important ministry? Here are a few specific suggestions of how:
- You can meet with your church’s disability advocate to discuss ways to minister together. Perhaps they can work with you around accommodations that are needed or ways to educate the congregation around disability awareness. Perhaps you can create opportunities together for people with disabilities to belong and serve in your community.
- You can pray: As members of the Body of Christ, part of our ministry is to pray for one another. Pray for folks living with disabilities and their family members in your church and community. Pray that church and society will break down barriers so that all may belong and all may serve, and that God will guide Disability Concerns to be an effective tool for God’s mission. Ask people with disabilities to pray for you, too, as you carry out this ministry together.
- You can schedule an offering for Disability Concerns and participate in the Disability Awareness week. (Nearly a third of Disability Concerns’ budget comes from offerings and donations.) Synod encourages churches to receive an offering for us on October 21, 2018. Depending on your church’s schedule, another date may be more appropriate. Any time is a good time to support people living with disabilities. Find resources for Disability Week on the Network.
Contact Disability Concerns with your questions, concerns, or ideas. We are here to assist you in the important ministry you do.
Thank you for your partnership. May God bless you richly in your ministry,
Rev. Miriam Spies
Volunteer and Communications Specialist
Disability Concerns, Christian Reformed Church