Mission Moments
 “Reign of Christ”
October 2021

What Must I Do?

Mark 10:17-31       Access Sunday and Disabilities Awareness Week

Many years ago, ordained United Church of Christ disability rights activist, Harold Wilke (1915–2003) wrote, “The festivals of the religious year show forth new meanings for access and liberation: In the glory of Easter – the stone rolled away – we see the barrier removed.  In the wonder of Pentecost, the message is heard, understood, and seen by all. In the liberating act of Passover, the message is: “Let My People Go!” and the parting of the Red Sea. In the joy of Advent, God embodies divinity in human form.” 

Yet, for many persons today…the barriers still remain; The stone is still in place; The waters are not parted, the way not opened; The words cannot be heard; The flame of the Spirit’s tongues cannot be seen, the message not understood. 

Proclaiming the message in all languages for today means using Braille or larger print for people with visual disabilities, signing or special sound systems for persons with hearing disabilities; image, color and drama for people with cognitive disabilities; architectural access for people with physical disabilities or who are getting older. 

Let the stone be rolled away! Let the glorious message be proclaimed truly, in all languages so all may hear and understand!

Wilke’s stirring words begin the guidebook entitled, “Anybody, Everybody, Christ’s body: A Guide for Congregations, Associations and Conferences in Becoming Accessible To All (A2A)”. This guide is invaluable to those congregations that fear that becoming truly physically accessible in their church buildings is fiscally out of reach. After all, the idea of putting in a new elevator or enhanced sound system might seem daunting.

The A2A guidebook is a reminder that just as important as physical and fiscal shifts, are changes in habits and attitudes. While these may take time and spiritual effort, the effect on the church budget may be less than is feared. The process of becoming accessible to all (A2A) begins with an audit of your space, which you can find, along with the A2A guidebook, at the website for the United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministry (uccdm.org).

Wherever You Go

UCC Higher Education Sunday/Reformation Reconciliation Sunday  Ruth 1:1-18

October 31st is Reformation Sunday when Protestants celebrate the ancestors in faith who created the first waves of Reformation that continue to be felt today.

A lesser-known reformer to many is Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig (1489-1561), a German Reformer. Church historians have generally ignored Schwenckfeld; maybe because of his many disagreements with Martin Luther. Luther, in one of his letters (December 6, 1543), spoke of Schwenckfeld as “the poor simpleton” who was “possessed of the devil.” Schwenckfeld refused to retaliate or to make public the feud between himself and the famous reformer. He just kept preaching his understanding of scripture as critical but not literal for understanding the Spirit’s work, his insistence on the oneness of all baptized believers, and his belief in the beautiful humanity of the service of communion.

Banished because of pressure from both Catholics and other Protestants, Schwenckfeld lived for many years in exile. He depended on friends, who circulated his writings and provided him refuge until his death on December 10, 1561. Schwenckfeld remained a bachelor and his followers were all “spiritual heirs” who were attracted to his reforming spirit of “The Middle Way,” between literal biblicism and blind sacramentalism.

Waves of persecution threatened the Schwenckfelders with extinction throughout the 1600s, and by the mid-1700’s only one alternative remained: leave everything and escape. On July 29, 1734, forty families began the journey to Pennsylvania and a new life. The descendants of those forty families still worship in Schwenkfelder UCC churches in Palm, Lansdale, Norristown, and Philadelphia, and proudly carry on the philosophy and thinking of Caspar Schwenckfeld.

This information adapted from Hidden Histories of the UCC which is searchable online at ucc.org.