a woman shows an open bible to a woman with Down syndrome at Bible study with her
Adapting Ministry at Reformed Pres in Ephrata, PA

Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPC) in Ephrata, PA, has a 20-year history of doing disability ministry. Over time, ministry has changed in response to member needs and new opportunities, but it is always guided by RPC’s commitment to intentionally support and enfold members affected by disability in the most effective ways. This commitment requires extra support and initiative, but it results in building up the entire church.

In the summer of 2018, the church launched RPC Reads, similar to the One Book community reading projects (One Book, One Community and One City, One Book). These reading programs encourage community members to read and discuss the same book as a way to “foster lifelong learning and promote development of a strong community identity.” Over the summer, everyone at RPC who wanted to participate read This is Our Time, by Trevin Wax. Then they considered questions about the book and met for a discussion session following a morning worship service.

As Dwight McKay, head of the church’s Disability Ministry Committee, researched the book, he found that there was no large-print format. The only available version was a downloadable audio book. Since that format would not meet the needs of older, less computer-savvy senior adults, RPC’s Disability Ministry Committee came up with another option: RPC Reads Aloud.

RPC Reads Aloud met on five Monday evenings through the summer with two readers each covering one chapter per night. McKay said, “We advertised it for those with vision limitations, those who have a problem concentrating on reading long passages, those who prefer learning by listening rather than reading, and those who simply would enjoy being read to in a group fellowship setting.” RPC Reads Aloud averaged 10 attendees each week, including several seniors, one of whom is legally blind. Other participants were unexpected but joyfully welcomed, including some who brought their own books and followed along during the reading.

At the final RPC Reads Aloud session, participants all agreed that the experience was worthwhile and would participate again if given the opportunity. The creative adaptation of the churchwide RPC Reads summer program allowed a larger number of members to more fully participate.