On October 13, 2017, folks from a dozen Anabaptist congregations gathered for Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADN)’s annual Circles of Love Banquet. Hosted this year at Prairie Street Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Indiana, presenters shared stories of courage, hope, and creativity in disabilities ministries. This annual event provides another opportunity for ADN to extend their mission and outreach to support congregations, families and individuals touched by disabilities to nurture inclusive communities.
Sign-language interpretation was provided at the banquet for guests who are deaf, and Prairie Street Mennonite Church, which completed a major building renovation in the past year, was accessible and welcoming to all. With diversity in age, race, and abilities, participants at the banquet reflected a vision of the inclusive church that we long and hope for.
Guests of the Circles of Love Banquet enjoy time of fellowship
Each touched by different kinds of disabilities, the presenters shared moving stories of how their congregations seek to offer full inclusion to people of all abilities.
Pastor Frances Ringenberg of Prairie Street Mennonite Church, described how the congregation extended welcome and inclusion to her son Ross as he experienced increasingly debilitating physical limitations. Ross’s participation in the congregation spurred renovations to the hundred-year-old church building, transforming it into an accessible facility for not only Ross, but also others with physical disabilities.
Jim Smith, the current board chairperson for ADN, helped get the accessibilities renovation project started at Prairie Street Mennonite by providing an initial ADN Accessibility Audit of the facility. (The Accessibility Audit is a service provided by ADN to help congregations identify areas of their facility and programming that could be adapted to better include people with disabilities.)
Rex Brake, Pastor at College Mennonite Church
Peter and Mary Graber, members at Sunnyside Mennonite Church, Elkhart, shared their journey with Sunnyside as they considered the most appropriate way for their daughter, Emily, who has developmental disabilities, to be included in baptism and church membership at Sunnyside.
Sheila S. Yoder and Rex Brake shared how College Mennonite Church of Goshen began a deaf ministries program and now worship with the Deaf Christian Fellowship each month.
Milton Stoltzfus of Friendship Community in Lititz, Pennsylvania, and one of ADN’s original members of the board of directors, also shared his personal story of growing up and being shaped by having two older sisters, Marcia and Marian, born with significant developmental disabilities. Milt has worked with Friendship Community, a residential services provider for adults with disabilities, for many years, and he currently serves as the director of spiritual care and chaplaincy for the organization. Peter and Mary Graber
While the Circles of Love Banquet draws participants primarily from the Mid-West, ADN has partner congregations and supporters throughout the United States and Canada, representing the Anabaptist denominations of the Church of the Brethren, Brethren in Christ, Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonite Brethren, Evana conference, and the Conservative Mennonite Conference.
ADN is thankful for the many volunteers who helped make this event possible, and for everyone who provides support for Anabaptist Disabilities Network’s mission to support congregations, families and persons touched by disabilities to nurture inclusive communities of faith.
or sent by postal mail to Anabaptist Disabilities Network, 3145 Benham Avenue, Suite 5, Elkhart, Indiana, 46517-1970.