roeBryan 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

vanier-jean-2The 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:

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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.

judithJudith 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.

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 “Leviticus and the Priest with Disabilities: A Job Description” by Jeremy Schipper.

schipperJeremy Schipper, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Religion (Hebrew Bible) and an affiliated faculty member of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. His research focuses on the Former Prophets (Joshua – 2 Kings) and disability in the Hebrew Bible and other ancient Near Eastern texts. Among his writings are This Abled Body: Rethinking Disability and Biblical Studies. Co-edited with Hector Avalos and Sarah Melcher. Semeia Studies 55. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007; and the book Disability and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant.

You can visit Jeremy Schipper’s Amazon Author Page here.

You can also download Bill Gaventa’s notes on this session here: “Leviticus and the Priest with Disabilities“.

To watch videos of other presentations from the 2013 Summer institute, click here.

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 “Reflections on Dietrich Bonhoeffer” by John Swinton. John Swinton, Ph.D, holds the chair in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom. He worked Read More →

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 “Calvin on Job, Disability and Suffering” by Hans S. Reinders. Hans S. Reinders has been the Professor of Ethics at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam since 1995. He has Read More →

L’Arche Canada recently posted Jean Vanier’s message to the North American Interfaith Network from August 10th, 2013. In this video, Jean reflects on personhood and the importance of interfaith dialogue. Similar to the emphasis of the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability, he stresses that the purpose of coming together is not to dilute one’s own religious beliefs but rather to love/deepen our own religious beliefs while growing in love and respect for one another.