The Gift of Welcoming

First Congregational has always been attentive to the needs of members with disabilities. Structural changes like the addition of the elevator and the garden entrance have provided for better access to the Sanctuary and meeting rooms. As we plan for remodeling in the building, attention is given to how we use this opportunity of physical changes in the building to enhance accessibility. Accessibility and welcome are an ongoing need for the church. 

Since 2008, Jeff Rabe has lead a team of members and staff to make sure First Congregational is a welcoming place for all, both in our physical building and in our programming. This team has been the driving force behind many changes. Awareness is the key to making changes. We hope that we are always aware of the many needs of people of First Cong, both those who are members, and those who may be visiting our church for the first time.

Because of the great work that has been done at First Cong, First Congregational was nominated by Jeanne Tyler for the United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries Award for 2015. The award honors congregations for their disability ministry, architectural changes which effect greater access and mobility, and /or outstanding achievement in their efforts to provide inclusion and opportunities for all. Jeanne said in her nomination, “My church is working hard at being accessible and inclusive.” After listing many ways Jeanne has observed First Cong’s work on accessibility and inclusiveness, she closed by saying, “It is with care and kindness and intentionality that we are received for the gifts we bring.” Jeanne also serves on the accessibility team at First Cong.

Earlier this month, we received word that First Congregational indeed had been chosen as one of three churches to receive the award at General Synod. The letter stated,

We wish to honor the First Congregational UCC of Madison because inclusion of people with mental health concerns and various disabilities seems to be an important part of the ministry of both church leadership and the congregation. By creating an inclusion team, you have learned how to offer radical hospitality and promote acceptance of people with both mental health concerns and people with differing kinds of disabilities. You have made architectural changes to provide access to parts of your buildings previously difficult or impossible to reach by people with mobility issues. For those with hearing loss, you have recently added a T-coil loop system that works directly with newer hearing aids in critical areas of your building. By inviting speakers to help educate both your congregation and surrounding community, you are working toward a more global understanding of people with mental health concerns and various disabilities.

Although the work is done to widen our welcome and be sensitive to ALL people, including their disabilities, it is wonderful to be recognized with such an award. We give thanks to the many members of the teams over the years that have given so generously of their time to address how we can make our space and programming better for ALL of God’s children. I will be accepting the award on behalf of First Cong at the Disabilities luncheon at General Synod. It is with joy and deep conviction that we accept the award, knowing there is always more work to be done. 

~ Eldonna Hazen

 

Posted on June 2, 2015 at 9:28 am in Featured Content.

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