Leadership and Community Support

Faith Based Initiative


On Wednesday, February 21, from 2-3 p.m., our Community Education Director, Linda Rammler, representing the UCEDD’s Faith-Based Initiative, and others representing varied organized faith communities in Connecticut were the presenters for a webinar sponsored by the national Collaborative on Faith and Disability hosted by Dr. Erik Carter of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Tennessee.  The other participants were Fr. John Gallagher, OFM Cap., from St. Pius X Church in Middletown; Kim Ranell-Newgass from Trinity Baptist Church in New Haven; Doris Maldonado from the Unitarian Society of Hartford; Mary Lou Freitas from Bethany Covenant Church in Berlin; and Rabbi Ilana Garber (who unfortunately was unable to participate in person) from Beth El Synagogue in West Hartford.

Panelists described their own faith communities’ mission and actions for everyone to access faith like everyone else, describing how effortless and natural it is to avoid “special programs” and embrace all means all in worship, celebration of sacraments and faith holidays, faith formation, parish events, and community service/outreach.


In 2015, UCEDD staff hosted a five-part “Faith-Based Initiative Webinar and Discussion Series” in Farmington. Webinars were produced by the Collaborative on Faith and Disability and UCEDD staff facilitated discussion by participants representing state and non-profit agencies as well as faith communities. To view archived webinars, see the website, Webinar Series on Supporting Spirituality and Inclusive Congregational Supports.


During the late Spring and Summer of 2014, UCEDD staff consulted to Bethany Covenant Church in Berlin, CT. View the Google Docs window below to see the flyer for their A.I.M.: All In Ministry.

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On May 4, 2013, the Community Outreach & Valley Parish Nurse Program hosted a day-long symposium for Parish Nurses throughout the State of Connecticut. Lynne Gustafson, one of the participants in the 5/16/12 events, turned to the UCEDD for a guest speaker on inclusion of people with disabilities in faith communities. The 40-minute presentation, repeated to five groups of Parish Nurses throughout the day, was given by the UCEDD's Director of Technical Assistance, Linda Rammler. View the Google docs window below to see that presentation.

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On October 10, 2012, Joe Geriak, a student with autism, co-presented with Kim Newgass of the Autism Society of CT (now merged with the Autism Services and Resources Center of CT) on 'Including People with Autism in Faith Communities.' The event was held at St. Pius X Church in Middletown, CT, and was coordinated through UCEDD staff.


From 2007-2011, the UCEDD participated in the Faith and Spirituality Advisory Council which had a membership of 17 consisting of a broad range of providers, representatives from an array of faith communities and consumers and parents. Activities include the development of a one page handout on disability etiquette for faith communities and panel presentations. Representatives of the group taped Sunday morning radio segments entitled 'Healthy, Wealthy and Wise.' These seven minute segments aired Sunday mornings at 5:30 a.m. on WRCH FM and contained segments on disability access and faith communities. The broadcast reached over 60,000 listeners.

The group held a conference on May 16, 2012, "Including People with Disabilities in Faith Communities: Strategies that will work in your community." Dr. Erik Carter was the keynote speaker. Dr. Erik Carter is an Associate Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. His talk brought practical ideas to life with the use of anecdotes, quotes, and examples of successful strategies. He assisted the audience of over 52 people representing various faith communities, some of whom participated in teams, in articulating and pursuing a bold vision of inclusion throughout their congregation, community, city or state. The full day conference included a panel discussion and workgroups for participants to discuss and plan their next steps to include individuals with disabilities in their communities. Service providers, people with disabilities, family members, faith community leaders, and lay people shared and heard strategies about how to welcome people with disabilities in their congregations, so that all may fully participate.

Read the timeless contributions of the panel members from the May 16, 2012 conference HERE.

Erik Carter at the lectern speaking to a group of people
2012 conference panel of people
2012 conference attendees speaking with each other