Important work for WISE congregations
A recently-passed General Synod resolution is serving as a springboard for the fifth Widening the Welcome: Inclusion for All conference, to be held Sept. 24-26 in Hartford, Conn.
“We know that there are many doors that have been shut on those who are living with disabilities, those who live with the stigma around mental illness, those who are challenged cognitively,” said Susan Burns of the UCC Disability Network and Alan Johnson, Chair of the UCC Mental Health Network, in a letter accompanying registration information. The conference’s goal is to help church “be those places where the doors are opened to all, including all of us who are challenged in mind or body. We gather to affirm and encourage congregations in this ministry of inclusion.”
The conference –– which takes place at the Windsor/Hartford Marriott –– will feature practical workshops on ways congregations can become not only A2A (Accessible to All) churches, but WISE (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive and Engaged) congregations for mental health as well. Delegates to General Synod 2015 in June passed a resolution calling on UCC congregations to adopt WISE covenants, and to eradicate the stigma around mental health and brain disorders.
The 2015 conference –– the first held on the East Coast –– is undergirded by the Isaiah verse, “Your gates shall always be open, day and night. They shall not be shut” (Isaiah 60:11).
The many other workshops at the conference will include one on autism in children and adults. The conference also will educate participants about disabilities and mental health; share best practices via storytelling, group experiences, and networking; equip pastoral leaders to provide quality pastoral care; worship together; and offer spiritual support. Nationally recognized storyteller Valerie Tutson and internationally renowned musician Jin Hi Kim are among the many presenters.
“Several of our UCC clergy who have written personal testimonies of their lived experiences with challenges will be presenting their stories,” said Johnson who, with Burns, is co-chair of the event. “There will be specific times when participants can share their own stories as well as listen of those of others.”
“One of the highlights for me is the power of personal stories,” Johnson added. “This conference will offer welcome and hope.”
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