There’s a renewed ministry of the ELCA Youth Gathering that I am excited to be a part of for the second time as Team Leader: the tAble. Formerly known as DAYLE, The Definitely-Abled Youth Leadership Event, the tAble is maintaining many of the best practices of this ministry, while also focusing on different opportunities to include and support youth who live with disabilities within the ELCA.
Without question, this ministry is where my sense of call first took root. I was a young person in a wheelchair at DAYLE ’00 learning about the ways God could use even me. But explaining what a “definitely-abled” person became cumbersome as I grew into my leadership over the next 15 years through the event. This past January, a passionate group of people came together and heard new ways God is calling this ministry into being.
The new name is simpler, with a focus on where we most concretely meet God in our lives: God’s table of grace. As we hear in worship, the bread is broken for all people, and the cup is the new covenant in our lives—signs of grace, of hope, of community—where all are welcome.
The community of young people with disabilities is growing within the church, and there isn’t always a place for us. As a pastor with a disability, the first questions I am always asked in any congregation are about accommodations. The tAble hopes to help reinforce that the kingdom of God has a need for abilities of all kinds, even if our buildings are less than accessible.
Accompanying one another through the kingdom of God with all of its stairs, written words, untranslated language, and tight schedules, is all of our responsibility as children of God. The tAble will be a safe space for youth and their companions to experience God’s power in their lives, while being empowered to go out into the kingdom—first at the Gathering and then back to their congregations, synods, and communities, knowing that they are a vital part of the church.
The tAble (formerly the Definitely-abled Youth Leadership Event or DAYLE) is a pre-event to the Gathering that blesses and empowers young people who live with a wide range of physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities so that they might grow as faithful, wise and courageous witnesses. The event also gives participants the opportunity to acclimate and orient themselves to Houston and the venues in which the Gathering are being held. The tAble will be held June 24–27, 2018.