By Bob Allen
American Baptist Home Mission Societies was among sponsors of an interfaith worship service in Washington celebrating 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, managing director of resource development for the American Baptist Churches USA agency formerly known as National Ministries, brought opening remarks at the July 26 service at Washington’s First Trinity Lutheran Church celebrating both progress and promise of the landmark civil-rights legislation signed into law by President George H.W. Bush July 26, 1990.
Ramsey-Lucas, who also is director of interfaith engagement for the American Association of People with Disabilities, described the act barring discrimination based on disability in employment, services and public accommodation as “a beginning and not an end in and of itself in the struggle for access, inclusion, dignity and belonging for people with disabilities within communities of faith and within society as a whole.”
On July 24 Ginny Thornburgh, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities, and journalist Mark Pinsky co-authored a Religion News Service analysis of the ADA’s effect on churches.” Although the ADA didn’t require accommodation and accessibility in places of worship, many went ahead and did it anyway,” they said, citing best practices for making congregations more accessible to their entire community.
The July 26 interfaith worship service included presentation of the Thornburgh Family Award, named after Ginny Thornburg and her husband, former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, to Rabbi Lynne Landsberg, co-founder and co-chair of the Jewish Disability Network; co-founder and co-chair of Hineinu: Jewish Community for People of All Abilities; and a member of AAPD’s Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition steering committee.
President Obama sent a letter recognized Landsberg for “bringing people of diverse faiths and backgrounds together around the mission of expanding opportunity” and shaping “a more inclusive future for generations to come.”
First Trinity Lutheran Church is home to Lifeline Partnership, which has been ministering for more than 50 years to teens and adults with intellectual disabilities.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies recently recommended two new resources to help faith leaders better understand and minister to individuals and families in their congregation who face challenges of mental illness.
Introduced earlier this summer at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, a 20-page booklet Mental Health: a Guide for Faith Leaders and companion two-page quick reference sheet can be downloaded at http://www.psychiatry.org/faith.
In their RNS article, Pinksy and Thornburgh suggest that, instead of making accessibility an afterthought, including people with disabilities on building, grounds and facilities committees.
“Projects achieve the best results by involving, in a meaningful way, all affected parties at the outset of the process,” they said. “The architectural design of a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque needs to reflect the heart, mind, and soul of all people who gather in worship, prayer and study.”
— With reporting by American Baptist News Service