This blog is part of our Special Session of the Delegate Assembly Open Call for Blogs series, which will run throughout May. This blog is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board or the resolution writers. Readers are encouraged to consult other resources related to the Special Delegate Assembly, engage the writers of the resolutions and discern within their own context.
This blog post is also part of Mennonite Church USA’s Welcoming EveryBODY: Learn, Pray, Join initiative.
Matthew Yoder is an alum of Hesston College and Eastern Mennonite University. He is currently the pastor of Grace Mennonite Church in Pandora, Ohio. Grace is a member congregation of Central District Conference.
Ten years ago, I would not have imagined picking the Accessibility Resolution from the current list of Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) resolutions scheduled for the upcoming Special Delegate Assembly. The me of 10 years ago certainly would have acknowledged that making accessibility an MC USA priority is something we can all get behind, and then I would have hastily moved on to invest my passion and ink in one of the three, shall we say, “higher profile” resolutions.
But, as is often the case, that which strikes a personal chord resonates loudest within the chambers of the soul. This is why I would like to tell you about my grandpa. Over the course of his 51 years of active ministry, my grandfather served as a congregational pastor, regional minister and chaplain. He served at the conference level and as an interim for a number of congregations. In 2001, he began volunteering at his local Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift store.
A paragon of second-half-of-life fitness, my grandfather began jogging daily in his 40s. After a back surgery later in life, he limited himself to walking daily. He became an avid cyclist in his 70s, riding in a number of MCC bike ride fundraisers throughout his 80s. As mentally sharp as ever, my grandfather became an avid reader in retirement.
At the age of 83, my grandfather began to lose his sight. A licensed driver for over 75 years, he last drove to church in 2016. That same year, he suffered a bicycling accident that took him out of cycling. Two years later, my grandmother, his helpmate of 70 years, passed away.
The past decade has been a time of loss and struggle for my grandpa. Through it all, he has remained tenaciously faithful to the Lord. Now, in his mid-nineties, my grandfather still retains a level of physical and mental fitness that belie his age. However, he depends on the generosity of others to provide transportation and help with grocery shopping. Thanks to magnification technologies for the seeing impaired, my grandpa can still communicate with family members via email and even read an occasional book or article. Because he lives in a one-level home, he continues to live independently. Thanks to live-streaming and recording technologies, he is able to worship with a number of congregations in his area each week. He still volunteers at MCC twice each week, thanks to accessible facilities and friends who are willing to give him a ride.
Thanks to God’s faithfulness, my grandfather has been able to overcome many spiritual and physical challenges over the past 10 years.
Thanks to generous friends, evolving technologies, and accessible spaces, he is able to continue to pursue his passion of worshipping God and serving the church.
I have a number of members in my congregation who, like my grandpa, are staying fit and active into their 80s and 90s, but who experience increasing mobility, vision and hearing challenges. In addition to these, our church is full of people of all ages and ranges of ability. For these reasons I am overjoyed that MC USA is making accessibility a denominational priority. When I think of all the people beyond the walls of our church who live with disabilities, prioritizing accessibility also makes missional sense. My hope and prayer is that everyone with disabilities would find, in MC USA, a church that is able to welcome and celebrate their gifts.
Of course, the other resolutions are important, too. But I hope with eager anticipation that the delegate assembly will invest the time and energy in this resolution that it truly deserves.
View resources for the Delegate Assembly, including the resolutions, webinars, a prayer guide, and registration link, here.
Welcoming EveryBODY: Learn, Pray, Join celebrates the many gifts that people with disabilities bring to our church communities. This initiative also calls us to repent as a church in the ways we have not fully seen or welcomed people with disabilities. May we commit to being more loving and aware as we care for one another.
This initiative is a partnership between Mennonite Church USA and Anabaptist Disabilities Network (ADN).
Find upcoming webinars and ways to get involved at https://www.mennoniteusa.org/ministry/peacebuilding/learn-pray-join/welcoming-everybody/.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and are not intended to represent the views of the MC USA Executive Board or staff.