I know that folks with developmental disabilities are serving, alongside mentors, as elders and deacons in your congregation. Tell us how this came to be, how it works, how it's going...
This is something new for us–less than a year. We are stilling learning how this will ultimately work. I can say this: my elder and deacon with disabilities are taking their responsibilities very seriously, and as they continue to grow in their roles as elder and deacon, so does the role itself.
I heard you're even changing the church's name! Why? And have you had resistance from the governing church body? support? What on earth do they think of y'all?
We have changed the name as of February 2, from the First Reformed Church of Ridgewood to the Friends to Friends Community Church because no one knew us as First Church except on paper. Friends to Friends is who we have evolved into, and now the name is official. Although the bylaws do not require any approval from the denomination, I did notify them and now they are changing all the documents in the denomination to read our new official name.
What should typical congregations know about welcoming folks with disabilities? How do churches need to change to be truly welcoming?
Early on in this ministry I was told by a very wise person, "If you focus on ministry to people with disabilities you will be blessed." And that is what has happened for me personally and for what was considered a dying church. How do churches need to change to be truly welcoming? I don't know. I only know that it has to start with the heart–which, by the way doesn't cost even a dollar.
Margot Starbuck is the author, most recently, of Not Who I Imagined: Surprised by a Loving God. Connect with Margot at www.MargotStarbuck.com or on facebook.