The Special Education Department of Bethel UMC was started in the fall of 1967 by two visionaries, Jack and Betty Cannon, who had a daughter, Suzanne, with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Jack was serving as the Superintendent of the Youth Division. Their son, Dr. Steve Cannon, serving with his wife Karen, are now the directors of this ministry. The program has now grown to 45 students on the roll and 12 staff who faithfully serve these students. There are still four of the original eight on the roll, each attending almost every Sunday.
Our main theme is “God is Love” and that there is no such thing as a disabled soul. We follow a pretty well ingrained routine since many of our students also have been diagnosed with an Autism disorder. Several students have the ability to read, so they are in charge of reading our weekly Scripture lesson which accompanies a third-grade level Sunday school lesson.
We start each Sunday School Class with the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth”, followed by the Pledges to the Bible, the Christian Flag, and the US Flag. Several students have favorite songs they like to sing, so we ask for suggestions. There is never a shortage of suggestions! Then, we have a 15-minute Sunday school lesson followed by a time for prayer, then refreshments. Some of the students will then go to “Big Church” where they participate just like anyone else in attendance. Those students who need to stay in our Sunday school area during this time go into another room where they engage in art activities or some other hands-on
activity. Some simply desire to watch the upstairs Worship Service via closed circuit television.
We welcome all adults with special needs and consider this ministry to be one of the greatest blessings of the Bethel Church family!