Silverton UMC hosts prom for adults with disabilities


One afternoon, when one of the teachers in the Community Transition Program was closing up the church building at Silverton UMC, she passed Rev. Laura Beville’s office looking quite sad.

Engaging her in a conversation, Beville discovered that the teacher was disappointed because the students had not been able to sign up in time for an annual dance for adults with disabilities hosted by the Tim Tebow Foundation. After their conversation, Beville shared the story with a few congregation members, who all replied “We could do that. How difficult would it be?”

As the idea unfolded, the congregation partnered with the Community Transition Program teachers and Silverton Mainstay, both programs that meet at their church for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Community Transition Program students even solicited snacks from local businesses.

On March 10, the congregation hosted 20 participants, their families, and supportive caregivers (about 50 people total) for “Starry Starry Night.”

Guests were greeted by “paparazzi,” professional photographer, Holly Jaynes, who graciously took pictures for the event. As Beville and CTP teachers greeted guests, Jill Lounsbury and Jolene Gerlits assisted guests with positioning their flowers. Each guest was gifted a corsage or boutonniere made by congregation member, Amanda Jakub.

After a quick stop at the photo booth, the guests were whisked upstairs to enjoy yummy treats donated by the congregation and community businesses. Emily and Charlie Flanagan and Cindi Rand made fresh donuts for the participants throughout the night. Marshall Beville spun the tunes, and Heidi Dum provided the games in a quieter space for those that needed to decompress. In case there were any medical needs, they even had a pediatric nurse, Briana Hupp present “just in case.” The entire building bubbled over with joyful dancing, singing (YMCA, of course), and noshing on yummy food.

"Silverton UMC has embraced their partnership with the school district and nonprofits in the community who seek to find ways to include people with disabilities in their worship and bible studies. The largest minority group in the church is the disabled," said Beville.

This means that inclusion of people with disabilities is essential to the mission and vision of the church. Disabled people have a wealth of experiences and gifts that enrich the church.

"The Silverton UMC congregation is learning to listen to people with disabilities in their community, lament ableism and injustice, and be transformed by God through disabled leadership. We who are abled have a lot to learn from people who experience the world differently," Beville said. "It is a gift that is fragile and vulnerable, and yet, if we allow ourselves to be open, we can learn to experience God's love and grace in new and eye-opening ways."