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Delaware Assistive Technology Initiative

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Volume 18, No. 2 - Spring 2010

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Homegrown in Delaware. Image includes the title words along with an outline drawing of the state witha tree growing from it. The tree has lightbulbs on it, as if they are fruits, that are being picked by a small figure underneath the tree.

Linda Heller Disabilities Committee Chair Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the UMC

logo of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church with a simple line drawing of a cross and a representative image of a flame.Faith communities and people with disabilities—what’s the connection? In the Delaware Valley there are a thousand or more churches of many faiths—Christian, Jewish and others. Regardless of their faith, people with disabilities and their advocates often refer to the Bible’s Old Testament verse: “For my house will be a house of prayer for all people.” (Isaiah 56:7) Furthermore, churches and faith communities in the area are beginning to live out this vision. They are working toward being welcoming, hospitable, and inclusive.

Bishop Peggy Johnson, elected to the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in 2008, is a remarkable proponent of disability rights. As such, she has made a point to initiate changes in the conference that she leads. In fact, she has stated, unequivocally, that her vision for UMC houses of prayer are places where “all people feel welcome, supported and included in all aspects of church life so that each member, regardless of their differences or God given gifts, are enabled to be instruments of the church in action, living out its message in the community.” You can find more information on Bishop Peggy Johnson’s blog,

Bishop Johnson—formerly the pastor of the Christ Church of the Deaf in Baltimore, Maryland—brings many years of passion for deaf and hard of hearing people to her current role. From her experiences as a sign language interpreter and pastor, she has expanded her vision and work to include and serve all people with any type of disability throughout the region for which she is responsible. Bishop Johnson has issued a challenge to the churches within the conference that she leads. She has organized the first “Peninsula-Delaware Conference Committee on Disabilities,” which includes 452 churches in the designated area. A committee focused on disabilities is in place in the Eastern PA Conference.

Bishop Johnson is devoted to helping churches become more accessible to people with all types of disabilities. Using the best models and resources available—from the national UMC, faith community resources, and other programs—the Bishop wants all churches to be welcoming in more than attitudes and behaviors. She is asking that all barriers to people with disabilities serving in leadership positions of churches and in every aspect of church life be removed. Bishop Johnson appointed a committee chair to carry out her vision. The committee is currently developing a resource directory and training guidelines and is seeking expertise in all aspects of disabilities. The Bishop’s goal is to assist churches to move toward being “more inclusive and welcoming to people with disabilities.” Not surprisingly, this is not a small endeavor. Information, education, and training need to be developed and presented to pastors, church leaders, consumers, and caregivers regarding disabilities. The need for and availability of assistive technology must be explored so people can enjoy and be included in every aspect of the faith community to which they belong. These aspects of the project are critical to making Bishop Johnson’s and the Prophet Isaiah’s vision—that “every house will be a house of prayer for all people”—a reality.

For more information on this committee, please contact Linda Heller, Chair, UMC Peninsula-Delaware Conference Disabilities Committee, by email:, or call 302-292-3066 (V/Relay). You may also go to the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church at ■

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