New Director Appointed for Disability Concerns
At its October meeting, the Council of Delegates approved Lindsay Wieland Capel as the new director of Disability Concerns.
“In 2008 I noticed Breaking Barriers [the Disability Concerns newsletter] in the narthex of a CRC church in Chicago and curiously picked it up. That was how I learned that the denomination that I loved had an entire office dedicated to what I loved,” said Wieland Capel in her cover letter when she applied for the position.
After reading that newsletter, she contacted the current director, Mark Stephenson, and started volunteering for the ministry.
“I used my love for writing to create a practical guide for specific things people could do to be more inclusive. I offered to create a Disability Concerns page on Facebook, became a moderator, added content, and built social media connections,” she said.
She also joined the Disability Concerns advisory committee and became a disability advocate in her local congregation. Professionally, Wieland Capel has served as a social worker providing direct services to people with intellectual developmental disabilities and persistent mental illness, as well as working for system changes at a macro level that could break down barriers and create opportunity.
She earned a master’s degree in social work and most recently served as a referral relations professional at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.
“In many ways the job description for Disability Concerns feels like a culmination of my volunteer, educational, and professional experiences along with my strategic thinking, creativity, and collaborative nature,” she said.
“I've always been drawn to macro social work and how systems, institutions, and organizations have a huge impact on individuals. When an organization like a church makes one positive change, it can have a huge impact on many lives.”
Over time, those individual positive changes make a cumulative difference, she said.
As she moves into the role of directing Disability Concerns, Wieland Capel said that she dreams of a time when people with disabilities will enter churches confidently – knowing they will be welcomed without having to worry whether they will be able to use the restroom, hear the sermon, or participate in communion.
“All of God’s family is blessed when all of God’s people are not only present but also blessing the community with their gifts,” she said. “This means that buildings and worship structures need to be intentionally designed with people with different gifts and challenges in mind.”
Wieland Capel will begin serving as director when Mark Stephenson retires from the position in December. He has served as the director of Disability Concerns for 15 years.
One development that came about during Stephenson’s tenure has been the growth of a close partnership with the Disability Concerns ministry of the Reformed Church in America. Today the two ministries work hand-in-hand to develop resources, train church leaders, and advocate for change in both denominations.
“The partnership with the RCA is really special. It makes the ministry stronger in both denominations, and I'm looking forward to that collaboration,” said Wieland Capel.
“I’m excited to have Lindsay join the Congregational Ministries team as the new director of Disability Concerns. Her passion and love for the ministry rise up whenever she talks about it. I look forward to working with Lindsay and seeing where she takes the ministry in this new chapter of its history,” said Lis Van Harten, U.S. director of Congregational Ministries.