In this author spotlight, Barb Newman shares how she first recognized the great desire for inclusive curriculum in today’s church and the role that she has been able to play in filling that gap. Barb highlights the impact that writing TOGETHER curriculum has had on her own spiritual walk and how it has brought old Bible stories into a fresh light. Look for Barb on the CLC Network and her work on the latest releases of TOGETHER.
I remember, in the early 1980s, I was part of one of the first Friendship groups at Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI. I was attending Calvin College and I was introduced to the setting and curriculum at that time.
I enjoyed writing curriculum when Friendship’s first edition needed updating, and also enjoyed writing some additional resources for Friendship Ministries such as Autism and Your Church and The Easter Book.
I was a friend of Nella Uitvlugt, former Executive Director of Friendship Ministries, and we worked together on several projects as she headed up Friendship Ministries and I was (and still am) the Director of Church Services for the CLC Network. In fact, I have worked so closely with Friendship over the years that many people believe I am an employee of Friendship Ministries. So, when this new opportunity for curriculum came up, it was a joy to be on the ground floor, linking arms with an organization I have respected for many years.
I have listened to many, many stories from congregations around the country. They are asking for inclusive adult small groups, but they don’t know HOW to make it happen. This curriculum provides the exact tool they need. I have also listened to many congregations that have yet to experience the BLESSING and JOY of being in relationship with persons with varied abilities. This would allow the entire community to grow and learn together.
I have written or co-authored a few of the units: Choose Courage, Prayer, Mary: Giving Birth to Good News, and Unwrapping Your Gifts. Each one has allowed ME to grow in these areas. I have learned so much, especially by finding ways to make these ideas come alive with visuals. I learned what the Jordan River looks like at the flood stage and what courage it must have taken for the priests to step into that water before God held back the waters. I learned about prayer postures that can make “wordy” prayers more meaningful and intimate. I learned about Mary’s song and what it could look like, not just sound like. I learned about spiritual gifts and what they really mean as they are boiled down into statements and visual ideas that would make sense to people of all abilities. I needed to learn these things as an author because it then allows me to pass on that learning as part of the sessions. I am delighted to have grown in my faith and am eager to hear from others who are learning these things in community with one another.