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THIS IS THE St. Paul United Church of Christ
Delta, WI

Ben will speak on the subject of faith and disabilities on
October 30th 2011 and also at it's sister church in Cable, WI


The United Church of Christ Disability Ministry and Mental Health Ministry held their
2nd Annual "Widening the Welcome" Conference in Columbus, Ohio - September 29-October 1st 2011

It was a wonderful inspirational and informational conference.


About thirty-five years ago, shortly after I began the non-profit organization Break Through Inc., I previewed a movie called "Belonging". It was about an orphanage in Mexico. A young priest was out one day walking and discovered a boy that was crying. After the priest came upon him he realized that he was disfigured from being burnt in a fire. He took pity on the boy and wondered how the other children would accept him back at the orphanage. As he walked into the courtyard with the boy, the priest was hesitant but very surprised as one of the children said -"You are my brother" and the children welcomed the boy into their midst.

Three weeks ago my wife and I attended the second annual "Widening the Welcome" conference for persons with disabilities and mental illness held in Columbus, Ohio. It is sponsored by the United Church of Christ Disability Ministry and Mental Health Ministry. We heard presentations from people from all over the map and about how wide the welcome is and should be. The conference was attended by about 110 individuals from across the United States and Canada. I don't know what kind of insights and knowledge we all came home with from this conference but one thing for sure was that wherever people came from or how severe their disability may have been they were welcome. We not only experienced that welcome in the presentations and workshops but we saw it at mealtimes. We also saw the "welcome" during the evening social function when everyone was having a good time chatting, listening to music, dancing and enjoying some food.

Widening the Welcome conference took me back to the movie "Belonging" where that little boy had been burnt and how that community welcomed him with open arms.

The conference was based on the text where Jesus told the servants to go into the streets to gather people for the banquet. (Luke 14:23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.") The metaphor is to cast your nets wide to include everyone in the community.

One of the speakers talked about "Enlarging the Size of Your Tent" to include everyone and not to forget those less fortunate among us. We are called to get out of our comfort zone and include people that are not included in our everyday experiences. Widening the Welcome conference was about including everyone into the body of Christ. To welcome everyone to come and eat at the table that Jesus invited us all to come and join him.

The question is "How Wide is the Welcome” in your church and communities?

Written by Ben D. Anderson ( www.bendanderson.com)