Moe and Ann are two people with disabilities supported by The Mills Community Support in Almonte, Ontario. They were having difficulty really feeling that they belonged at the church they were attending. Few people said “hi” to them and they didn’t engage well with the format or the activities. Thousands of people go through similar experiences, whether or not …
The 2014 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability, sponsored by the Bethesda Institute, ran from June 16th-20th at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. The days were full, with a wide variety of speakers on diverse topics. We are already looking forward to the 2015 Institute, which will be held in Atlanta, GA …
Lately a video (produced back in 2004) has been making the rounds on social media highlighting the artistic ability of Paul Smith from Philadelphia, PA. He had severe spastic cerebral palsy yet made the most of his abilities, and at the Rose Haven nursing home he found a community that valued and appreciated not only his …
Gayle Walls desired to communicate his faith to the world, but found communication barriers to be challenging in light of being born with cerebral palsy. With the rapid growth of technological communication and the innovation of his church community, though, Gayle has found his niche as a Church Online volunteer with LifeChurch.tv. LifeChurch.tv has become …
“Just come, just get here.”
Sometimes, the best first step is invitation. Who knows how many people don’t attend on any given Sunday simply because no one has asked them?
The video below, from Harvest Bible Chapel in Oakville, Ontario, is an excellent example of an invitation for families with children with special needs. It also goes beyond the invitation to say we have prepared a place for you. Not only are you welcome here, but we have anticipated your arrival and have arranged the additional support you need.
For more information on the Building Communities of Belonging conference on May 3rd at Harvest, you can download the poster, follow the facebook event, or register today! Until the end of March, buy one ticket to register and bring someone else along for free.
Bryan Roe is a youth pastor with Crosspoint Community Church in Wisconsin. At Key Ministry‘s 2012 Inclusion Fusion he shared the remarkable story of his time with Tourette Syndrome during his youth. On the Disability and Faith Forum we tend to focus on stories where people currently living with disabilities experience and express God’s grace and truth, but Bryan’s is a story where he underwent a physical ‘curing’ of Tourettes. This story isn’t the tired reiteration of “believe and you will be healed!” however, since the (spoilers!) “Greater Miracle” for Bryan is not that his Turrettes was taken away but that God uses him in light of not in spite of this disability.
I highly encourage you to watch the video below and to check out the post on Key Ministry’s blog, but in case you don’t have time here’s a quick synopsis of some of Bryan’s primary points in how to welcome people with apparent or ‘hidden’ disabilities into a church community:
- Regularly feature testimonies from adult leaders who have seen God use them in ways that he used me. Additionally, make sure that the leaders who are giving their testimonies make themselves available to talk to (and pray with) students who are impacted by their stories.
- Create positions for serving in the church that can be filled by individuals with special needs. Invest in them this way and you add value to them. Be creative and don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Communicate stories about how Jesus interacted with people who were on the margins of culture. Through this, build a case to the rest of your youth (or overall church) population about how we should be intentionally and genuinely reaching out to these kids rather than ostracizing them.
The Work of the People has an extensive collection of videos by a number of notable authors, theologians, thinkers and artists. Notably, there are many video interview clips with Jean Vanier. Most of us are familiar with Vanier’s work, from his founding of L’Arche in 1964 to his continued work as a thinker today. One of the things that strikes me most profoundly about his thought is that, while he touches on themes that are powerfully related to disability, his insights are just as applicable to any of us who are human, who crave friendship and belonging. We all need each other, in our gifts and in our brokenness. The following video is no exception. Here Vanier draws inspiration from Luke 14:12-14, where Jesus instructs his dinner host,
When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.
Clicking on the following image will bring you to the video:
Over the next weeks, we will be highlighting some of the presentations at the 2013 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability.
This week, we are featuring “Agent or Object: A Call to be God’s Partner” by Judith Snow.
Judith Snow, MA (www.judithsnow.org) is a social innovator and an advocate for Inclusion. She is also a visual artist and Founding Director of Laser Eagles Art Guild, an organization making creative activity available through personal assistance to artists with diverse abilities. Ms. Snow has a background of 25 years of research design and implementation, most notably working with the Institute on Disability, UNH to provide design of a post-intervention instrument, train interviewers, and participate in analysis and report writing with the National Home of Your Own Alliance, a 23 state technical assistance program funded through the Administration for Developmental Disabilities.
To watch videos of other presentations from the 2013 Summer institute, click here.