“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Interfaith Disability Pre-Summit summary article

Rev. Bill Gaventa prepared this summary article for distribution about the wonderful Interfaith Disability Pre-Summit which was held just recently in Washington D.C. I provide it for your information. Bill also indicated that this article is "For Immediate Release: (Please feel free to adapt to your own publications, add information or perspectives, etc.)." Bill is once again to be congratulated for conceptualizing and pulling off this marvelous meeting.


Interfaith Disability Pre-Summit Draws Over 100 to Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, September 20, more than 100 representatives from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and public and private provider and advocacy organizations involved and interested in religious service and supports with people with developmental disabilities and their families met for a first ever interfaith summit at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. The gathering was a “Pre-Summit” because it occurred just before a first ever national summit between eleven national disability networks organized as the Alliance for Full Participation. (www.allianceforfullparticipation.org)

The Interfaith Summit involved the representatives from the National Council of Churches Committee on Disabilities, the AAMR Religion and Spirituality Division, the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, the National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry, the Religion and Disability Program of the National Organization on Disability, Friendship Ministries, YACHAD (The National Jewish Council for Disabilities), the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Consortium of Special Educators in Central Agencies for Jewish Education, the National Association of Christians in Special Education, the Union for Reformed Judaism, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, and Lutheran networks including Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. and Mosaic, Inc.

The highlights of the Presummit included three presentations by national leaders in disability advocacy to the interfaith gathering. The first was Patricia Morrisey, Director of the Administration on Developmental Disabilities. The second was Chester Finn, the President of SABE (Self Advocates Becoming Empowered, Inc.). The third was Sue Swenson, the incoming Executive Director of The Arc. All of them were asked to address ways that faith communities and networks could address major needs and goals being discussed at the Alliance for Full Participation.

A second highlight was a presentation by Jeff McNair of the results of an Interfaith Survey conducted over the summer of 2005 designed to research the perspective of faith communities and networks on the issues and needs being addressed at the Alliance for Full Participation. More than 70 people and networks responded to the 10 page survey, leading to more than 150 pages of comments, ideas, and suggestions. The Executive Summary of the Survey can be downloaded from www.aamrreligion.org. (Or use your own website if you put it there) and the full results of all the responses can be viewed at to http://jeffmcnair.com/Presummitsurvey.htm.

A third highlight was the incredibly high energy in the meeting, and the networking between individuals and groups. That was assisted by a reception and shared dinner, with a celebration of the presentation of the Henri Nouwen Award by the AAMR Religion and Spirituality Division to Sara Simon, a pioneer in Jewish supports with people with developmental disabilities, and the first ever Jewish recipient of this award. Meditations led by Gerry Hendershot, Ginny Thornburgh, Sister Gabrielle Kowalski, James Vanderlaan, and Rabbi Matthew Simon closed the evening, along with written statements of commitment by more than 50 participants about what they would do with their experience in the pre-summit.

Without a doubt, though the highlight of the day was a poem composed and read by Nate Hajdu, a direct support professional who works with Charlie Swenson. Sue Swenson invited three of the direct support staff from Jubilee, Inc, a Mennonite-based organization in Maryland who supports her son, to come and talk about the ways that their faith shapes, and is shaped, by their work with people with developmental disabilities. All three were articulate and moving, but the poem “My Friend Charlie,” read by Nate Hajdu about the spiritual journey on which Charlie had led him was simply a profound, moving, and sacred moment. (The poem is attached.)

For more information about the Pre-Summit, please contact one of the following sponsoring partners:

• Bill Gaventa, AAMR Religion and Spirituality Division, and The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities.732-235-9304. bill.gaventa@umdnj.edu
• Jeff McNair, National Association for Christians in Special Education. jmcnair@calbaptist.edu
• Nella Uitvlugt, Friendship Ministries,1-888-866-8966, friendship@friendship.org
• Linda Larson, NCC Committee Coordinator, 763-300-6163. Lindjhl@aol.com,
• Jan Benton, National Catholic Partnership on Disability, 202-529-2933, 202-529-2934 (tty), jbenton@ncpd.org
• Barbara Lampe, National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry, 1-800-736-1280. qnafim@aol.com
• Ginny Thornburgh, NOD Religion and Disability Program, 202-293-5960, religion@nod.org
• Sr. Gabrielle Kowalski, AAMR Religion and Spirituality Division President, 414-410-4109. gkowalski@stritch.edu
• Gerry Hendershot, Cornell University Institute for Policy Research, ghendershot@earthlink.net
• Jeffrey Lichtman and Jason Lieberman, YACHAD, National Jewish Council for Disabilities, (212) 613-8229. krackol@ou.org.
• Sara Simon, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Consortium of Special Educators in Central Agencies for Jewish Education, and Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. srsimon@erols.com
• Rabbi Richard Address, Union for Reform Judaism, Rfaddress@aol.com
• Linda Ogden, Mosaic. 319.653.5192. cell: 319.461.3435 lynda.ogden@mosaicinfo.org
• Earl Bleke, Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. 920-206-4408, ebleke@blhs.org

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