Walking into the congregation on Sunday morning, you first notice Kayla’s welcoming smile. Something is different, but that smile keeps you from turning away. As you take the bulletin from her hand, you walk to your seat with a warmth in your heart for this person who is serving the church, using the gifts and abilities God has given her. At first, the people in her congregation recognized Kayla by the wheelchair she uses and the others who came with her from her group home. Today, they see her as a beloved child of God who is included in the life of the congregation and who has been given the gift to greet people with warmth and sincerity.
Including people with disabilities in church life is the focus of the Indiana District Task Force (IDTF). The IDTF supports spreading the love of Jesus Christ to congregations who minister with people who have disabilities—whether physical, mental, intellectual or developmental. When a congregation enters into ministry with someone who experiences a disability, it is walking alongside someone who can be an active member and who brings unique gifts and talents to serve the Lord.
The IDTF serves as a resource and a connection to congregations. As the recently appointed chairperson for this task force, Deaconess Kimberly Trombley continues her journey of living life together with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
After graduating from Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne, Trombley was placed with Bethesda Lutheran Communities. At Bethesda, Trombley has witnessed the many ways people with intellectual and developmental disabilities serve in the church. Bethesda was founded by Lutherans who wanted to include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the everyday activities of life as a Christian. More than 110 years later, Bethesda is still committed to encouraging the people they support to grow in their faith.
“While rooted in our Lutheran tradition, we assist the people we support in pursuing the faith of their choice,” said Rev. Jim Pressnell, vice president of Religious Life and Church Relations at Bethesda. “We partner with fully inclusive congregations and ministries to enhance the lives of the people we support through services that share the good news of Jesus Christ. We’re excited that Kim’s leadership and the work of the task force will further our mission in Indiana.”
Each person on the task force has experienced how people with disabilities have served in the church, and how congregations have lived life with them. There are many more stories to tell. We live life together with all people, and when we do, we create a church that incorporates the fullness of the body of Christ.
Look for more information about the Indiana Disability Task Force in the coming months. Learn more about Bethesda Lutheran Communities at www.bethesdalutherancommunities.org, and feel free to reach out to Deaconess Trombley at Kimberly.firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
Deaconess Kimberly Trombley is the Corporate Director of Religious Life Operations at Bethesda Lutheran Communities, headquartered in Watertown, Wis.