At Mission U 2014, "The Church and People With Disabilities" study turned the bright light of education onto a need overshadowed by other ministries.
The volunteer planning team sought to model inclusivity. Led by Dean Derrek Belase, their effort in that area mirrored their care for all aspects of Mission U, held July 18-21 at Oklahoma City University.
Plenaries included sign language interpretation. Sharon Capron, one of three interpreters, said she realized "why God wanted me to learn" to sign when officials asked her to facilitate at a state correctional center. She is associate pastor at Prague UMC.
An Enrichment Class, "On the Path To Become More Welcoming," introduced assistive devices and addressed etiquette. Presenter was expert Shelly Gladden of Oklahoma ABLE Tech.
Katie Loos of Owasso, who is Ms. Abilities Oklahoma 2013-14, mentored participants as she led by example and advocated for understanding.
An accessibility audit for churches was distributed:
The Communion elements included an option of gluten-free bread.
Participants could ride OCU’s campus carts.
Even a small change in worship liturgy inspired inclusivity. "Stand in body and spirit" replaced the typical phrase "Stand as you are able."
Mission U, formerly the School of Christian Mission, is sponsored annually by the Conference’s Mission & Service Ministry Team and United Methodist Women. Classes are offered for children, youths, and adults
Each year, three studies target spiritual growth, a geographic region, and a justice issue. "How Is It With Your Soul?" and "The Roma of Europe" also were featured this year.
Patricipants attend from across the state. For example, adults in one class came from as far away as Madill, Woodward, and Miami (Okla.).
Dean Belase urged attendees to apply what they learned in their local settings. A December survey is planned.
Mission U attendance totaled 180, including seven youths and five children. The offering of $1,919 supported Oklahoma UM Disaster Relief, and donations filled 32 UMCOR cleaning buckets, with additional supplies.
— Holly McCray
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