Epworth United Methodist Church in Valley City, North Dakota, has acted in love to make their building more accessible to people with mobility and other special needs—including evaluating and auditing their facility and making improvements. These actions enable all of God’s people to participate in ministry more fully.
Paragraph 162 of the Book of Discipline speaks to the rights of person with disabilities. Part of it reads as follows: “We recognize and affirm the full humanity and personhood of all individuals with mental, physical, developmental, neurological, and psychological conditions or disabilities as full members of the family of God. We also affirm their rightful place in both the church and society.”
As an extension of this commitment of the Church, The Disability-Friendly and Accessible Church badge initiative was launched in April 2019 by the Disability Ministries Committee (DMC) of The United Methodist Church. The badges recognize individual congregation’s work to create an inclusive space where people with and without disabilities can worship and serve together.
In recognition of the congregation faithful efforts, Epworth UMC was awarded the Silver Badge at the 2023 Dakotas Annual Conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Silver Badge represents satisfactory accessibility and accommodations. It means the church has many accessible features and offers accommodations for persons with a variety of disabilities including hearing loss and limited vision. Silver level items may cost a bit more and take more effort to put in place. While some areas are not yet fully accessible and inclusive, the congregation is working towards accessibility.
A report in Epworth UMC’s newsletter states, “We are lucky to have a church that is mostly ground level which makes it easily accessible to all, however, there are still ways that we can improve our building for those who struggle with mobility, such as adding automatic bathroom door openers and marking specific tables in the dining room wheelchair friendly.”
The congregation is in the process of respacing some of the pews to make worship more comfortable for people of all abilities and more accommodating to wheelchair users.
Congratulations to Epworth UMC on the hard work your congregation has done to get to this point! Learn more Disability-friendly and Accessible Church Badge Project.