My name is Norma and I have been a Christian for most of my life. I have a Masters of Divinity and I am a trained counselor. What you will not know about me by reading this blog is that I have Cerebral Palsy and have had this disability for my entire life. As I interact with people in the community some incorrectly assume I have a Developmental Disability due to my speech challenges. This does not bother me as much as it used to because I have learned that I have no control over how people react to me. Part of the human condition is that people put others in categories such as disabled, non-disabled; single, married, etc.
The question is why do humans like to put each other in categories in the first place? The answer is, because we tend to associate with people who are like ourselves and whenever we encounter someone different from ourselves we attempt to put the person in a neat little category. How does this fit with the Christian view of how we should see each other?
Putting people into categories goes right back to the Bible, as in the New Testament the early church had conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles and the church could not agree on how to achieve unity. It is clear from the Old Testament that God intended all along that people love Him and live at peace with God and others. In Isaiah 49:6 it says that the Lord’s servant will be a light to the Gentiles, however, Israel time after time ignored that and the Gentile court in the temple was used for business and not for the Gentile to worship God. The same problems continue in the New Testament as Paul and Peter disagree about how to integrate the Jews and Gentile believers in the Christian Church.
Today, all churches need to explore how to include people who have disabilities in the life of the church more effectively. I have always felt loved and accepted in my church. This is largely due to the fact that I am involved on the missions committee and included in the life of the church. Churches will be fully accessible when everyone has the opportunity to grow closer to Jesus, and to each other. Making your church building structurally accessible is a good start. However, accessibility needs to be adopted by the church community as a whole and some people’s attitudes may need to change. Inclusion of people who have disabilities within the life of the Church means that our ministries are fully accessible, people are welcoming to everyone, and everyone grows closer to Jesus. Further, everyone’s gifts are valued and respected.