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Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

Recently, a fellow ministry worker was sharing with me some of the new things she was doing in her very traditional church. One of those new things included helping a bunch of very cool adults (I have met them, they are a fun bunch) with intellectual disabilities participate in the sacrament of communion. She was sharing some of the staff and volunteers concerns.
Can they really take communion?
Yes, they understand what it is to be in relationship with Jesus.
Do they understand the significance of the sacrament?
Yes, they have been taught and we have practiced in our classroom?
What if…something goes wrong?
I snickered and stated something may go wrong. Then my mind drifted…

I over the years I have worshiped in places where it was customary to move out of the pew and move toward taking the elements. As a child, the small white wafer was placed on the tongue and I swallowed the wafer, and there was never an issue. But because, of safety, a wafer is now often placed in ones hand. This can often bring me to a place of dread, will I be steady enough to pick the wafer or bread up, will I drop it…. What will happen…and the juice… Over the years, I may have worn more juice then swallowed it.

Because of my hand coordination my preferred method is intinction, a method where the bread is dipped in the juice or wine. Because it is bread, so the pieces are normally larger and I have better control over these things. But oh…those small little cups, that are often over filled. I see the tray coming and I want to run or hide, or have the cups pass me by…I have dropped full trays…and have left places of worship with red stains on my clothing, feeling mortified, ashamed and left out of one of the most important traditions we have as Christians! I have had better meaning people point out the stains on my clothing, bringing more embarrassment. I have cried on many occasions, feeling it was so unfair this beautiful sacrament, had been marred because of my physical limits…

I began to tell my colleague about spilling and her very quick wonderful reaction was the blood of the Lamb washed you. My perception…of all of those spills changed with that phrase…for I am glad I am made clean by Jesus blood…. And with that I will go boldly to the communion table in the future. Do you come to the table boldly!

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Note to Northland

Here is a note, I sent to the Northland staff this morning regarding my upcoming transition. God has used Northland and it’s people to shape me over the years…today, I am excited about the next steps in my life!
The last several months here at Northland have been eventful for many of us. When the ELT and elders began to talk about the up coming changes at Northland, I began personally began to ask God, where do I fit into the plan here at Northland. Access Ministries has a foundation, but there is so much more to be accomplished to serve those with disabilities. I began to realize my call to ministry was not to Northland like many of you, but rather to a people group, those living disability. My desire began to grow to reach beyond the doors of Northland.

So In October when the news came, Northland no longer needed me as Access Minister, I was not surprised God had already been working in my heart about reaching other churches. Like many people was concerned about how I would pay the bills. My desire for along time was to consult with other churches and help them to figure out how to serve one person or family with disability at a time, but the Question was, how would I get paid doing what I felt God was calling me toward. Would I get serious about developing Table Ministries, a business I set up to do consulting a few years earlier but I had no peace about moving in that direction.

God was way ahead of me, of course. Over the years, I have connected with many people and organizations throughout the United States doing faith and disability work, including Bethesda Lutheran Communities. Bethesda’s mission is to enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They work with adults primarily, which is my first love in this community. I have been hired as a Ministry Consultant. It is in many ways the perfect position in that over the past it has been Bethesda philosophy to take care of the spiritual needs of the people they are serving, taking the responsibility of off the local church. They are shifting toward a model that I fully embrace, that of people truly being enfolded into the life of a local congregation. My position will consult with congregations and help people with disabilities become part of the congregation and to equip staff who support these individuals in their group homes to feed folks spiritually. God has created a passion in me for both of these areas and as I write, I am excited about what is next…

Next, is a move to the suburbs of Chicago…where this position will allow me to pour into 160 residents, living in group homes in the suburbs and Springfield and to work with a many new churches. Leaving Central Florida and Northland seems difficult. Northland has embraced, loved and supported me in many different ways in the past fifteen years. I walked through though the doors a very disconnected person, with no desire to be connected to anyone, found connection by accident in Singles Ministry, found purpose through Global Outreach, especially as a Missionary Living in England, where I realized the people group I am called to are those with disabilities. Wherever I go, a huge piece of Northland and her people will go with me….and I know now what it is to feel connected. Thank you to each of you who played such an important part of this journey…you helped me to grow into a person who is passionate about God and his people…words will never express my gratitude.

As we all embark on this new season, I will be praying for each of you!
Merry Christmas!
Laura Lee

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This week, I have been attending Inclusion Fusion an online free conference for people who have an interest in both Faith and Disability. This is a great tool for those churches that want to start ministry but do not know how to start or struggle to articulate why a church should do disability.

In his session, Dr. Ben Connor, author of “Amplifying Our Witness”, quotes, John Swinton, “To be included is to be there…to belong is to be missed.” My personal opinion is that churches would say, it is all right for a person with severe disabilities to “be there” in the church, but if that person were not there most would not miss that individual. This translates to the rest of the church body as well. If someone does not show up on a Sunday morning, or for a bible study, do we miss that person? Living in Christian community we should always be aware when there is an empty space at the table and make that person aware he is missed.

Two of my colleagues in the field of faith and disability, Mike Beates and Jim Hukill, often talk about the best ministry you can give someone is the ministry of presence. Many of my friends with disabilities are non-verbal, yet when they enter the room, my day often is made complete.

Are you aware of who is present in your life? Is there someone missing, if so, ask them to join you at the table!

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Recently, I was in a room of disability ministers from around the country. I enjoy spending time with this group and the conversations were very good. But…….. I flew on to my next destination thinking about what the next generation of leaders would look like. Who would they be? Where would they come from? What would they see their mission to be? All of us are effective at what we do and desire the same thing, to bring the individuals and families closer to Jesus.
Around the table sat white men and women with middle-class values. All of these workers in the Kingdom had at least average intelligence. Great, this is a start, but now I wonder, where the black man or the Latino or the Asian or the person utilizing a talking device, or utilizing a wheelchair or the person who has different intellectual capabilities.
Reality tells me, movements start with who is around the table. I just want the table I sit at to be much more inclusive than the table I sat around yesterday. So friends, how do we bring for people to the table.

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