Welcome to the Religion and Spirituality Division of the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, where we work to foster opportunities for spiritual growth for person with disabilities.
It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter. Our dear friend, Nella Uitvlugt, died suddenly Wednesday evening, March 21. She was a powerful force in this work, as well as a good friend to many. In fact, friendship was at the center of her ministry, in its simplest and most powerful form, though she was also Executive Director of Friendship Ministries. You can view and add your own testaments for Nella here. Please keep her family and co-workers at Friendship Ministries in your prayers during this difficult time.
It is with a very heavy heart that our Division shares the news of the sudden and unexpected death of our dear friend, Nella Uitvlugt, Executive Director of Friendship Ministries of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
My review for this newsletter was prompted by a number of things. I recalled a conversation with another member of AAIDD about being cognizant of the issue of age appropriate materials when reviewing products for purposes of religious education with persons with special needs. Recent interactions with “twice exceptional” (both gifted and disabled) persons who have been struggling with finding a place to fit in came to mind.
I hope this edition of the Religion and Spirituality Division newsletter finds you well. Some among us may still be coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. For my own part, I am still catching up from the loss of power for a week, which is why this newsletter is delayed (sorry). However, my experience was nothing near what many had or are still dealing with.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to our survey! There were 48 of you who did so, approximately 39% of our membership. There is a brief summary of it in this edition of the newsletter. The results are consistent with conversations I have had with many of you:
Your responses will really help to guide the work of the executive committee. A few of you expressed interest in helping. Thank you, we will be in touch!
A Review of “Autism and Your Church: Nurturing the Spiritual Growth of People with Autism Spectrum Disorder” (2nd edition) by Barbara J. Newman
Published by Friendship Ministries
This 2011 revision of the original 2006 manual concludes with a call and a challenge by Pastor Jared Henderson to form inclusive worship communities by providing passionate, unconditional love to person with special needs, pursuing those who may need such environments, and to show compassion in order to “be willing to get close.” (p.91). With her fine mix of rationale based on scripture along with an extensive array of practical suggestions to faith communities attempting to meet the spiritual needs of persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders and related disabilities, Ms. Newman accomplishes this in fine fashion. Although the publication is Christian in orientation, the suggestions could be easily integrated into any organized faith community interested in reaching out to persons with ASD and other special needs.
Thank you to everyone who filled out our recent survey, below you will find a brief summary of the results:
I am excited about working with you all the next two years as president of the Religion and Spirituality Division! I have enjoyed the opportunities for learning and relationships through my membership, which have richly enhanced my ministry as director for Pastoral Ministry with Persons with Disabilities in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark. I hope and pray that I may do justice to the legacy of those before me.
Since our inception 30 years ago, Friendship Ministries has believed that the Church is complete only when it includes all of God’s people. To that end, we have worked diligently to encourage and equip congregations to minister with intellectual disabilities. Our unique model for ministry has quickly become the standard for congregations around the world, and we have been blessed with friends, mentors, colleagues, and partners who have graciously supported Friendship’s mission in their own communities.
Online Resources from the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey and Catholic Charities Health and Human Services of Cleveland, Ohio
As our collective efforts to employ emerging technologies to assist in our faith based outreach activities continues to expand, I wanted to share two examples from individual Roman Catholic dioceses in this review due to my relative familiarity with them. Although I am certain that there are other internet-based sites from many faith traditions, it is my hope that some of the examples that I will share from these two might motivate local providers to implement similar services using some of the ideas and tools both have developed. (Please be sure to obtain permission from the key contact persons listed below before copying/modifying any such materials that they have placed online).
I am excited about working with you all the next two years as president of the Religion and Spirituality Division! Please read the minutes below from the Forum this year and look for more division news in August via our newsletter and a survey discussed below.
I hope you get to enjoy some moments of refreshment and relaxation this summer.
Religion & Spirituality Division