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Developmental Disabilities and the Church

Annotated Bibliography


CELEBRATING DIFFERENCES. By Aldred H. Neufeldt (Ed.).(1984). Faith and Life Press, and Mennonite Publishing House, 616 Walnut Ave., Scottdale, PA 15683; (800) 245-7894; 150 pages. Celebrating Differences: Leader's Guide. By Nancy and Dennis Becker, 72 pages.

This 13 session awareness material is directed toward teachers, clergy, adult Sunday School classes and small groups seeking to increase knowledge of how to respond to persons with physical or mental disabilities. Readers are challenged not only to accept, but also to celebrate persons with disabilities, to view them as equal and valuable members of the body of Christ, "to celebrate our oneness under God". Although covering all disabilities, with topics including attitudinal barriers, experiences of rejection of parents with children with disabilities, education, faith development, life planning, and theological and historical understandings, Celebrating Differences highlights the potential of persons with developmental disabilities to understand and express faith and love. Brief quotes from developmentally disabled adults and children, and their photos, help personalize issues discussed.


CIRCLE OF FRIENDS. By Robert Perske. (1989). Abingdon Press, 201 8th Avenue South, Nashville TN 37202; 1-800-251-3320; 94 pages.

An internationally known writer on disability issues has developed this book, featuring stories and ideas about friendships with people who have disabilities. The publication is enhanced by the delightful black and white illustrations by Martha Perske of people of all ages and races who have various disabilities. Beginning with a brief discussion of why friends are important, and how people with disabilities need mutually satisfying friendships with ordinary people, the book moves on to illustrate how "circles of friends" can change the lives of persons who have a disabling condition. It is an excellent resource for congregations seeking ways to become involved in the lives of persons with disabilities.


COMMUNION FOR CHRISTIANS WHO ARE MENTALLY RETARDED. By Robert Selle. (nondated.) Bethesda Lutheran Home, 700 Hoffmann Drive, Watertown, Wisconsin 53094; 1-800-369-INFO; 40 pages.

The question of admitting a person with mental retardation to the Lord's Supper is discussed comprehensively in this booklet. Although presented in a Lutheran frame of reference, the book provides useful rationale for "a complete ministry of word and sacrament" with individuals who are developmentally disabled, and its aim is to "encourage and enable . . . ongoing ministry, specifically as it relates to the sacramental participation of Christians who are mentally retarded." Among the booklet's nine sections is one on confirmation, where the reader is advised "it is not necessary to postpone admission until the highest level of understanding has been attained." Sample confirmation exam questions from two special classes are provided.


COUNSELING FAMILIES OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES. By Rosemarie S. Cook, Ph.D. (1990). Word Publishing, 1501 LBJ, Suite 650, Dallas TX 75234; (214) 488-9673 x1172; 208 pages.

A part of the Resources for Christian Counseling series (volume 25), this book is excellent for clergy and others working with families of children with disabilities. The author writes from experience as a mother with a son who has mental retardation, as a Christian, and as a trained counselor. The book has 10 chapters, with the first eight dealing with counseling about children's disabilities. Chapters 9 and 10 are related to the Church and disabilities, exploring issues such as theology and disability, and offering practical suggestions for congregational members to provide support to families.


COURAGE TO CARE: SEVEN FAMILIES TOUCHED BY DISABILITY. By Judy Griffith Ransom. (1994). Upper Room Books, 1908 Grand Ave., P.O. Box 189, Nashville TN 37202; 206 pages.

This book relates the stories of seven families, each of which has a member with a disability, and the effect a few caring persons have had on the families' quality of life. In the area of developmental disabilities, the book features the story of Jason Carder, who has Down Syndrome, Christina and Natalie Foster who have Rett Syndrome, and Jim Shannon who has cerebral palsy. Appendix 1 offers useful advice, including such sections as guidelines for helping, information on appropriate language, caring skills inventory, a do and don't list for persons visiting families with children having special needs, and practical suggestions from a parent. Appendix 2 contains print resources, and Appendix 3 has a brief list of disability organizations.


DIMENSIONS OF FAITH; CONGREGATIONAL MINISTRIES WITH PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES. By the Community Building Partners, University Affiliated Program of New Jersey, in partnership with The Religion Division, American Association on Mental Retardation. (1998). Religion Division, AAMR, 31 Alexander Street, Princeton NJ 08540.

A comprehensive bibliography, this publication contains listings of resources in the area of ministry with persons with disabilities. Its central focus is ministries with persons with developmental disabilities, but resources related to other disabilities are included also, primarily in the area of mobility impairments. Among topics covered are worship and sacraments, music and arts, respite care, theology, ethics, pastoral care and counseling, death and grief, sexuality, religious education and resources and curricula. Books, training manuals, media, journals, magazines, and denominational offices are listed, with a directory of publishers' addresses appended. Most listings are not annotated, but a few, such as curricula, have one to four lines of description.


A DRAMA OF LOVE; A CHRISTIAN EUCATOR'S GUIDE TO CREATING CLASSES WHERE EVERYBODY BELONGS. By Judith Mullet and Paula Snyder. (1993). Mennonite Central Committee. Now distributed by Mennonite Mutual Aid: Advocacy &;Educational Resource Department, P.O. Box 483, Goshen IN 46527; (800) 348-7468; 8 pages.

Designed for Sunday School teachers, this brief booklet, divided into 9 sections named for dimensions of a theatrical production, is packed with useful information on provding an inclusive religious education program. Following a biblical overview, the section "Setting the Stage" gives background information on integration of students with disabilities and "Director's Notes" quotes Jean Vanier and cautions about traps into which one can fall, such as inadvertently ascribing hero status to persons with certain disabling conditions. "Characterizations" describes various disabilities. "Preparing the Actors" covers awareness- building with nondisabled class members through such strategies as simulation activities. "Performance Tips" offers 18 specific suggestions such as using age appropriate activities, knowing students' communication preferences, giving directions in at least two modalities, training a "buddy" to assist, and organizing a "floating teacher" program. "Writing &;Directing the Script" has step-by-step planning guidelines, and "Staging" is about managing classroom behavior. Extending inclusion beyond the classroom to other church ministries (e.g., ushering, greeting, assisting in the nursery or library) is explained in the final section, "Sharing the Drama." The booklet ends with a resource list of books and materials, videos, films and puppets.


GOD PLAYS PIANO, TOO: SPIRITUAL LIVES OF DISABLED CHILDREN. By Brett Webb Mitchell. (1993). Crossroad Publishing Company, 370 Lexington Ave., NY, NY 10017; (212)532-3650; 200 pages.

A compilation of spiritually-based narratives and essays, this book offers a revelatory look at the spiritual lives of persons with developmental disabilities: mental retardation, autism, or behavior disorders. The readers learns stories such as that of Joshua, a six-year old boy who has autism. Through the piano, Joshua tells his audience how he experiences the world around him. Webb-Mitchell writes, "The one who seems to be conducting and playing through Joshua's life is the Creator." Among the stories are thoughts and feelings of persons from the London L'Arche, a religious community for people with mental retardation, where the author, a Presbyterian minister spent months conducting an ethnographic study. The book is a pioneering effort to present first-person narratives, so that we can hear their voices and listen to their stories, instead of projecting "what we think the person with mental retardation is thinking and feeling." Its goal is for readers to gain insight into the relatively unknown and untapped power of the church in nurturing these children's lives.


HOW TO TEACH SPECIAL STUDENTS. By Joan Dubberke. (1992). Concordia Publishing, 3558 So. Jefferson Ave, St. Louis MO 63118; 1-800-325-3040; 72 pages.

This handbook is one of a Lutheran series How to Teach, designed for Sunday School teachers and administrators. It covers students with mental retardation, learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, behavior disorders, and other areas. In the first chapter, a section is allotted to each disability area, including a description of characteristics for that disability, and suggestions for teaching. Other chapters cover getting to know the students, a total ministry for "special people", organizing Sunday School Classes, methods and materials and classroom behavior management. Appendices include sample forms, information on making and using puppets, and resources.


JEAN VANIER and L'ARCHE: A COMMUNION OF LOVE. By Kathryn Spink. (1991). Crossroad Publishing, 370 Lexington Ave., NY, NY 10017; 211 pages.

This book tells the story of the l'Arche movement, from its 1964 beginning in the village of Trosly-Breuil, north of Paris, when Canadian Jean Vanier invited three men with mental retardation to leave the institution where they had been living and make their home with him, through its growth into an international federation of more than 85 communities all over the world. L'Arche is described as a community where there is the desire "simply to live together, not as 'educators' and handicapped people, but as sharers in a life of communion". A list of books by Jean Vanier and addresses of l'Arche communities appear at the end of the book.


LIVING WITH A BROTHER OR SISTER WITH SPECIAL NEEDS: A BOOK FOR SIBS. By Donald Meyer, Patricia Vadasy and Rebecca Fewell. (1985). University of Washington Press, P.O. Box 50096, Seattle WA 98145; 1-800-441-4115; 110 pages.

Written for children who have a brother or sister with a disability, this book is for clergy, chaplains, counselors and others working with families where there is a child with a disability, and one or more siblings. It gives information about handicaps, and lets children know that other brothers and sisters have the same kinds of feelings they are having. It gives children the chance to find answers to questions which they may not feel comfortable asking their parents. Attractive black and white sketches add to the book's appeal.


MINISTERING TO PERSONS WITH MENTAL RETARDATION AND THEIR FAMILIES. By Gene Nabi. (1985). Convention Press, So. Baptist Customer Service Center, 127 Ninth Ave., N., Nashville TN 37234; 1-800-458-BSSB; 125 pages.

Written by a Southern Baptist who has a son with mental retardation, this book suggests ways that churches can minister to persons with mental retardation and their families. Divided into ten chapters, the book gives background information on mental retardation, and discusses why this ministry is needed. Much of the book covers starting a ministry for mentally retarded persons, and ministering to the family. The chapter on curriculum contains material on resources, but it is restricted to Southern Baptist materials. It has brief material on mainstreaming, adapting, behavior management and nutrition. Many of the organizations listed in the appendices have changed their names, addresses and phone numbers since this book was published originally.



As the title suggests, the theme of this book is that religious communities have a ministry with people with disabilities, and that they are in ministry with one another -- a mutual ministry. Included in the book are a Bible study guide concerning mental retardation and other disabilities, information on mental retardation, material on myths and misinformation, theological reflections concerning persons who are mentally retarded, and Fowler's stages of faith as a guide for ministry with people with mental retardation. A resource section is found at the end of the book including religious education curricula.


OPEN HEARTS: A YOUTH MINISTRY RESOURCE ON INCLUSIVITY . (1992). Produced by Division for Congregational Ministries. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Contact ELCA Distribution Service,426 South Fifth Street, Box 1209, Minneapolis MN 55440; 1-800-328-4648; 22 pages. This publication deals with inclusion in terms of disability, gender, age and culture. Guides and exercises are a part of the booklet. Disability information is four pages in length, and includes persons with learning disabilities. (To order specify Code 67-3216.)


OPENING DOORS: MINISTRY WITH PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES. By David Byers. (1987). National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, P.O. Box 29113, Washington DC 20017. Volume I: 77 pages; Volume II: in three ring binder; (202) 529-2933.

Volume I has three chapters: (1) Ministry with Persons with Disabilities; (2) Planning for Ministry with Persons with Disabilities; (3) Guidelines for Individual Ministries. Chapter 3 offers a section on each major disability group, including mentally retarded persons, and persons with learning disabilities. List of public advocacy and service organizations is only partially complete, and many of them have changed their names and telephone numbers since this book was published originally. Volume II, sold separately, provides a compilation of resources on disability issues.


PACKET FOR LOCAL CHURCHES ON MINISTRY WITH PERSONS WITH HANDICAPPING CONDITIONS. Southeastern United Methodist Agency for Rehabilitation, Inc., P.O. Box 128, Lake Junaluska NC 28745; (704) 452-2881; approx. 150 pages. (SEMAR soon will have the capability to provide this resource in Braille, as well as print form.)

A packet of materials for local churches to assist them to be in ministry with persons with handicapping conditions. The packet contains the following helpful materials: "How to" information to assist churches to be in ministry with persons who are mentally retarded, and persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, mobility impaired, or blind; information to assist ushers and greeters in welcoming persons with handicapping conditions; "how to" start a Sunday School Class for Persons with handicapping conditions; "how to" conduct an accessibility audit in a local church; Access Sunday worship resources and sermon starters and a list of resource materials.


PORTRAITS. By Lize Stilma. Mosaic Press, P.O. Box 1032, Oakville, Ontario L6J 5E9 Canada; (905) 825-2130.

This collection of poignant poems about people who have a developmental disability is an excellent resource for Sunday School leaders and clergy.


REACHING OUT TO SPECIAL PEOPLE: A RESOURCE FOR MINISTRY WITH PERSONS WHO HAVE DISABILITIES. By Jim Pierson and Robert Korth (Eds.) (1989). Standard Publishing, 8121 Hamilton Avenue, Cincinnati OH 45231; (513) 931-4050, 320 pages.

Covering key disability areas, this book has substantial information on persons with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. It is divided into four parts, and has 17 chapters. Part One, "Persons with Mental Retardation" includes information on learning characteristics of students with mental retardation, building a curriculum, and classroom management. Among the five chapters in Part Two, "Persons with Other Disabilities" are a chapter on ministry with persons having learning disabilities and one on persons having behavioral disorders. Other topics in the book cover building a caring ministry, one-to-one relationships with persons having mental retardation, music as a ministry tool, and ministry with families having persons with disabilities.


SHARING CARE: THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY OF RESPITE CARE. By Judith K. Murphy. (1986). United Church Press, United Church Press and National Council of Churches. (1986). Out of Print, but limited copies available from Religion Division, AAMR, 31 Alexander Street, Princeton, NJ 08540; 58 pages.

Commissioned by the NCC Task Force on Developmental Disabilities (now the Committee on Disabilities), this manual provides critical information regarding respite care, which is ongoing temporary relief to those who are primary care givers to persons with developmental disabilities or to other persons who are disabled, frail, homebound, etc. Topics for the five chapters are: "What is Respite", "Why We are Called to Give Respite Care", "How to Organize Respite Care in the Church", "Finding, Training, and Matching", and "Respite Models". Appendices include a bibliography, resource list and sample forms, a list of sequential steps for building a respite system, and a description of sample training programs.


SHARING THE JOURNEY Active Reflections on the Church's Presence with Mentally Retarded Persons. By Ellen Cook. (1986).Wm. C. Brown Company, Publishers. Now distributed by National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, P.O. Box 29113,Washington D.C. 20017; (202) 529-2933; 132 pages.

This book contains articles written by members of the Catholic organization, the National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry (formerly National Apostolate with Persons with Mental Retardation) . Among material covered in the 14 chapters is the role of the church, parent advocacy, sexuality, residential services, the medical profession, education and finances. Key chapters are: "A Church's Presence to Families with Members Who are Mentally Retarded ", and "The Role of the Church in Providing Comprehensive Services and Ministries for Families".


SUFFERING PRESENCE: THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS ON MEDICINE, THE MENTALLY HANDICAPPED AND THE CHURCH. By Stanley Hauerwas. (1986). University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556; 221 pages.

Written by a Professor of Ethics at Duke University Divinity School, this book offers a theological perspective with regard to medical care of persons with mental retardation. Part I covers such topics as why medicine needs the Church. Part II contains theological reflections on living, dying and experimentation, and Part III discusses persons with mental retardation and their care.


SUPPORTIVE CARE IN THE CONGREGATION. By Dean A. Preheim-Bartel and Aldred H. Neufeldt. (1986). Mennonite Developmental Disability Services. Now distributed by Mennonite Mutual Aid: Advocacy and Educational Resources, P.O. Box 483, Goshen IN 46527; (800) 348-7468; 38 pages.

This book urges congregations to establish supportive care groups for persons who are developmentally disabled or otherwise significantly dependent. Such groups would surround the families and persons with disabilities in a lifetime commitment. Opening pages characterize such a project in the context of a challenge to recapture the early New Testament church's vision for caring for its own within the family of faith. Included is material on theology of caring, the model of a supportive care group, how to implement such a group, and legal and financial considerations. A caution to readers about the denominational offices list at the end of the book: Although correct at the time of publication, a number of these names and addresses are no longer valid.


THAT ALL MAY WORSHIP; AN INTERFAITH WELCOME TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. By Ginny Thornburgh and Ann Rose Davie. (1992). National Organization on Disability (NOD), 910 16th Street NW, Suite 600, Washington DC 20006; (202) 293-5960; 52 pages.

This handbook, developed through NOD's Religion and Disability Program is designed to assist congregations, denominational groups and seminaries to welcome people with disabilities into all aspects of worship and to promote inclusion of persons with disabilities in congregations. Topics include attitudes about disability, use of appropriate and affirming language, forming a task force on disability issues, religious leaders as role models, an interfaith litany, congregational hospitality and training for ushers. There are sections on each type of disability, including one on "Welcoming a Person with Developmental Disabilities".


UNEXPECTED GUESTS AT GOD'S BANQUET: WELCOMING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES INTO THE CHURCH. By Brett Webb Mitchell. (1994). Crossroad Publishers. Distributed by Publisher Resources, Inc., 1224 Heil Quaker Blvd., P.O. Box 7017, La Vergne TN 37086; 1-800-937-5557, 194 pages.

Why people with mental retardation (or other disabilities) must be a part of congregational life, and how to facilitate this inclusion, are explained in this book. The author, a Presbyterian minister, applies theory and practice for adapting programs and people with disabilities into the educational ministry of the church. He develops this call for inclusion from Jesus' parable of the banquet feast. Among the book's eight chapters are such topics as theological reflection on the place and presence of people with disabilities, Christian religious education with people with disabilities, and an inclusive congregational life.


WE DON'T HAVE ANY HERE: PLANNING FOR MINISTRIES WITH PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN OUR COMMUNITIES. By Winifred Anderson, Toby Gould and James Paul. (1986). Discipleship Resources, P.O. Box 840, Nashville TN 37202; 42 pages.

Authors of this booklet are well known for their work and writing in the disability area, and two of them, Winifed Anderson and Toby Gould, have worked on disability concerns for The United Methodist Church. The booklet has become a classic for those concerned with ministering with persons with developmental disabilities and other disabling conditions. In Chapter One, Gould describes seven kinds of ministries: An inclusive preschool, a program of respite care, a summer camping program, a young adult group (that includes young people with persons with disabilities), a congregational awareness program, a congregational support and advocacy group, and making group home residents a part of your community. Chapter Two, by Anderson, tells readers about Resurrection Preschool in Alexandria, Virginia, an inclusive program with children with Down Syndrome, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autistic-like behavior, and multiple disabilities. A guide for planning is offered by Paul in the final chapter. He provides a framework within which to look at the needs and resources in the community.


WHAT HAPPENS AFTER WE'RE GONE? By Duane Ruth-Heffelbower. (1996). Mennonite Mutual Aid: Advocacy and Educational Resource Department, P.O. Box 483, Goshen IN 46527; 1-800-348-7468.

Estate and life planning for families with a disabled member. This booklet is helpful to families with a member who is developmentally disabled. It deals with the question of how to plan estates, conservatorships, guardianships, wills and trusts from a Christian perspective. Coordinating the estate plan with available government benefits is explained and discussed. Appendices include sample trust language and a checklist on future planning. A "Notes to Lawyers" section is a good resource for the family attorney working on the estate plan. Underscored is the principle that for all Christians, estate planning is good stewardship. (review of earlier edition)

Organizational and Periodical Resources on the Church and Developmental Disabilities
Journal of Religion in Disability and Rehabilitation
Haworth Press
10 Alice Street
Binghamton NY 13904

A new quarterly journal covering numerous aspects of the spiritual life of persons with disabilities. While covering all disabilities, the journal has numerous articles related to persons with developmental disabilities. Representative titles include: "Pastoral Care of the Mentally Disabled: Advancing Care of the Whole Person", "Transitioning: Letting Go and Letting God", and "Scriptural Foundations for Churches' Inclusive Ministry."

National Christian Resource Center (NCRC)
Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc.
700 Hoffmann Drive
Watertown WI 53094

Offers a resource materials for teaching religious education to persons with developmental disabilities. Religious special education videos are available for a cost of $10 each, and for free loan. Other materials are sold for a nominal charge. The center offers free information on residential services, client training, day programs, advocacy, respite care, and religious programming throughout the country from its computerized database. It publishes the quarterly newsletter Breakthrough, offering lesson outlines and teaching suggestions.

National Task Force on Developmental Disabilities
United Methodist Church
Ms. Pat Cook
503 Vine
Leavenworth KS 66048
(913) 682-8517

The Task Force provides leadership and resources for ministry with persons with mental retardation. Composed of lay persons and clergy, the task force draws membership from diverse areas and professions, and has held an annual meeting since 1992. Areas of focus include models of ministry, self advocacy, educating congregations, networking, camping, local church inclusion, special religious education and theology of inclusion.

Religion Division, AAMR
c/o the Rev. William Gaventa
31 Alexander St.
Princeton NJ 08540
(908) 235-4078

The Religion Division of the American Association on Mental Retardation is an interfaith, interdisciplinary association of professional ordained and lay people who are concerned with persons with developmental disabilities and their families. The mission of the division is to share resources which foster opportunities for spiritual growth for persons with developmental disabilities while respecting their religious identity. The division has a helpful newsletter available for clergy, congregations and others wanting to keep abreast of resources and ideas for ministries and supports for persons with disabilities and their families. This division with 300+ members is one of 13 professional divisions within the AAMR which has approximately 9,000 total members.

National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry
(formerly National Apostolate with Persons with Mental Retardation)
PO Box 218
Riverdale, MD 20738-0218
(301) 699-9500
(800) 736-1280
(240) 220-8374 (fax)

A national Catholic organization for individuals, families, or groups having an interest in spiritual, mental or physical development of persons with mental retardation. Publishes a newsletter (six times a year) and a journal (four times a year). Offers various memberships (open also to non-Catholics): student, individual, family, sustaining and affiliate.


See Also: Annotated Bibliography-- Persons with Disabilities: Pastoral Care Resources.


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