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People with Disabilities Need More Than 'Ramps and Curb Cuts'
Is Key Message of NCC Event at Calvin Seminary Sept. 24-27

September 24, 2003, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Representatives of more than a dozen U.S. denominations and faith-related disability organizations from across the nation - all members of the Committee on Disabilities of the National Council of Churches -- will meet Sept. 24-27 at Calvin Seminary Building, 3233 Burton St. S.E., Grand Rapids, Mich.

The committee's objective is to encourage greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in congregational life. "It’s not just a matter of ramps and curb cuts," said Jim Vanderlaan, Director of Disability Concerns for the Christian Reformed Church, headquartered in Grand Rapids. "Congregations need to welcome people with disabilities and the important contributions they can make to our faith communities," he said.

Linda Larson of Minneapolis, who staffs the NCC Committee on Disabilities, said the scriptural theme of this year's meeting is "we hold these treasures in clay jars so that it may be clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us (II Corinthians 12:7).  Larson commented that "disability is the natural outcome of life and living.  Disability happens through accident, illness and genetics.  The power that belongs to God is the transformation of what the world views as a fate worse than death to find blessing in disability that can transform our faith communities."

A forum for Calvin Seminary students and faculty and "Insight 2003," an exhibition of art by Michigan artists with disabilities, will be held in conjunction with the meeting and are free and open to the public.  Organized by VSA arts Michigan, located in Detroit, the art show includes work by artists of many ages and with a variety of disabilities.   Following the Grand Rapids visit, the show will travel to other Michigan cities until January 2004.

"Art is one of the ways that people with disabilities can express themselves spiritually," said Karen Blachford of London, Ontario, Canada, Chair of the NCC Committee on Disabilities.  "We wanted to encourage that by working with VSA arts on this show."

The Christian Reformed Church and Calvin Seminary are co-hosting the NCC group, forum and art show.

The meeting is one in a series of forums that the NCC Committee on Disabilities is holding at seminaries. "I’m so glad Calvin Seminary is hosting this meeting," said Ginny Thornburgh, Director of the Religion Program at the National Organization on Disability, Washington, D.C. "It’s important that seminaries of all faiths include awareness of disability issues in their training of future congregational leaders."

The National Council of Churches USA, with headquarters in New York City, fosters collaborative work by its 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Episcopal member denominations. Those denominations in turn comprise 50 million adherents in 140,000 local congregations nationwide.

Wednesday, September 24

6:15-6:45 p.m.: Opening Devotions, NCC Committee on Disabilities.

7-8 p.m.: Reception and Opening of "Insight 2003," an exhibition of art by Michigan artists with disabilities, organized by VSA Arts Michigan.

Thursday, September 25

8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: "Insight 2003" art exhibit open for free public viewing.

9-11:45 a.m.: "Special Interest Day" presentation and panel discussion for Calvin Seminary students and faculty on how to plan for greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in congregational life.

12:30 - 4:45 p.m.: NCC Committee on Disabilities meets.

7-8:15 p.m.: NCC Committee on Disabilities visits Friendship Ministries.

Friday, September 26

8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: "Insight 2003" art exhibit open for free public viewing.

8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: NCC Committee on Disabilities meets.

Saturday, September 27

8 a.m. to Noon: NCC Committee on Disabilities concludes.

8 a.m. to noon: "Insight 2003" art exhibit concludes.


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