This April, I began my third year serving part-time in the national setting of the United Church of Christ as the Minister for Disabilities and Mental Health Justice. What an honor and privilege it is to serve in ministry with you all. I give God thanks every day for this good work to do. In addition to supporting the missions of the UCC Mental Health Network and the UCC Disabilities Ministries Board, I partner with national teams across the UCC to do what I can to include disabilities and mental health justice as key to what it means to Be The Church. A few examples of these fruitful partnerships include working with MESA (Ministerial, Excellence, Support and Authorization) training and educating Committees on Ministry, as well as working to support Members in Discernment (MIDs) who face bias and discrimination because of visible and invisible disabilities.
I am also working with OPTIC, the national UCC office for communication, to create an online Community Care space (inspired by our successful first-ever General Synod Community Care/Self Care Space in partnership with UCCMHN, UCCDM and UCC Wellness Ministries). This new, evolving virtual Community Care space provides online offerings (short Youtube videos like this one: ) promoting stress reduction and relaxation through guided meditations accessible on national UCC Facebook page. I am looking forward to partnering to creating a virtual Community Care Space for our online General Synod in 2021. Please be in touch if you are interested in helping with this project.
Additional new partnerships emerging for mental health and disabilities justice include working with our national UCC Disaster Ministry. I am working on a team helping to design our long-term recovery efforts through the lens of mental health and disabilities. The global pandemic, along with national racial unrest, is a mental health crisis. I am helping the UCC Disaster Ministries to be part of the recovery efforts supporting positive mental health, resiliency, and flourishing for our authorized ministers and congregations.
I am also partnering with our UCC Washington office because a key part of our flourishing is ensuring that democracy is meaningful, reflecting the views of all people. Democracy only works if everyone can participate fully in the political process. Mental health and disabilities justice depend on our ability to access voting opportunities safely and equitably.
The bad news is that people with mental health challenges and disabilities have lower voter turnout. The good news is that working together we can energize a movement to get out the vote and to help remove barriers to voting. Mental health disabilities are often invisible and can be forgotten about when we think about voter suppression. Voter suppression among people with mental health challenges and disabilities is a real problem.
People with mental health challenges and disabilities are key voters in this election. We need to come together and build our power collectively. How will you effect change in your local community? November will be here before we know it. It’s not too early to consider getting involved from the safety of your own home through text banking, phone banking, sending postcards, and talking to family and friends–all important and impactful forms of activism. Don’t limit yourself to traditional definition of activism.
In addition to local activism, I invite you to join me in the national movement in the United Church of Christ, Our Faith, Our Vote . Check out the new Civic Action Center here to make sure your voice counts. Take hold and take charge of your power. Help spread the word in your congregation, Association and Conference.
The stakes are too high to remain silent. Together we can make our faith and our vote count for disabilities and mental health justice. Together, we can build a just world for all. As I follow God’s calling in this third year, I invite you to partner with me. Please be in touch firstname.lastname@example.org and keep our shared mission and ministries in your prayers. For as the hymnist says, we are “called as partners in Christ’s service.”